The Lost Art of Being Bold

4HI have an extremely low pain tolerance. (Ironic with a surname like mine, don’t you think?) When my teenager went to put my hair up in a messy bun for me the other day, I cried like a baby because she pulled it so hard. The accompanying conversation went something like this:

Me: “Stop! That hurts really bad!”
Her: “Quit being such a drama queen.”
Me: (quite immaturely) “Takes one to know one.”
Her: “Takes a big one to raise a little one.”

Wow. Despite the pure sass that came roaring through the comment, I couldn’t help but be impressed with her quick, snappy, and clever comeback.

Teenagers are bold. We parents typically don’t adore this characteristic about them. They get a bad rap for it. But based on a few of my own recent experiences, I’m beginning to empathize with them. What is it about boldness these days? It’s a trait that’s misunderstood, under-appreciated, and downright shocking to people. How do I know? Because I’m learning that I, too, am bolder than I realized.

What does this term mean? When I Googled it, I found “fearless and daring” as well as “clear and distinct.” The adjective “bold” is not to be mistaken with “rude” which means “socially incorrect behavior” or “lacking civility or good manners.” There is a significant difference between the two in my mind. After all, rudeness is a pet peeve of mine! So much so that my girls and I are often verbally pointing out the rude people and behaviors we detect around us. It’s like a sad version of “I Spy!”

“I spy a lady who just cut me off in traffic.”
“I spy a man who jumped ahead of me in line at Starbucks.”
“I spy a kid who is screaming his head off in the middle of the violin recital, and his parents are allowing it.”

Ugh.
Seriously?
What is wrong with people?

As an illustration of Bold VS. Rude, we can refer to Sunny Bunny the Corgi, 4 months old, of British descent, yet born in Rural Kentucky. She has lived with us for 2 months now in our new home. While she is beginning to show brief shades of “civility” – see definition for “rude” above – she is generally lacking in self-control.

Barking and biting are her favorite pastimes. I can’t decide which one annoys me more. In my middle age, loud noises make me instantly anxious. I had to stay indoors for most of the 4th of July due to my disdain for the fireworks. I find my barking pup to be equally loud and disturbing, and her tiny canine teeth are like pins or needles or razor blades, whichever is sharpest. Her favorite place to chomp is the back of your ankle when you can’t see her coming, which makes it extra painful and infuriating. Yes, I do cry when she attacks me in this way. (In my own defense, I cry only when I am injured. Or when I’m watching Disney movies. Hardly ever beyond these two scenarios.)

Is the puppy being bold or rude in her efforts to assert herself and learn her place in the family order? I hate to break it to her, but her spot is bottom of the barrel behind me, the girls, AND her  sister pug who is 7 years her senior. But she doesn’t know this yet.

Society seems to see the difference between bold and rude as a thin line, but I have an easy way to make the distinction…

Rude is disappointing and depressing.
Bold is inspiring and energizing.

Sunny toggles between the two. And her rude side isn’t even her fault. It’s nature’s fault. That whole alpha dog thing. Hasn’t domestication taken care of that yet? Clearly not. That’s why K9 College – the place where you send a pup away for a month and they come back the dog you dreamed about when you put the $200 deposit down on her when she was only a twinkle in her mother’s womb – that place costs about as much as a semester of human college tuition.

Much like my high-strung puppy’s boldness, my own tendency to get this way with others startles many people, and that’s what has prompted this story.

What is it with not being real and direct with one another? It seems to be far too rare these days, especially when meeting and getting to know new people.

Call it bold, but I do ask a lot of questions. Everyone knows that game “20 Questions” – don’t you? Pick an object, animal or inanimate, and proceed to answer your competitor’s questions to narrow down the options. Through the process of elimination, you can often identify an object among all the possibilities in the world by simply asking only 20 “yes or no” questions or less. This game alone highlights the sheer power of questioning. It’s how we learn and solve mysteries. And people are mysteries. And how else does one have a compelling conversation with a person she doesn’t know yet without asking questions? Tell me. I’d love to know.  Until then, I’ll continue my inquisitive approach. Yet it aggravates people. It wears at their patience. It causes them to say out loud, “You do ask a lot of questions, don’t you?”

I also tend to cut to the chase, more than most it seems. I say what I mean. I mean what I say. I am impatient. I don’t have time to dawdle. Does anyone? No. So why are we busy people as a whole lacking in boldness? It saves time, yet it’s not a common virtue. I’m beginning to think that being bold is a curse. Then again, no. I like this part of me – so much so that I’m training The Precious Pair to possess it themselves. These are the lessons I share with them almost daily:

“Speak up and be heard.”
“Tell me what’s on your mind.”
“Look people in the eye, especially adults, when you are talking to them.”

I’ve saved my best recent story about boldness for last. It comes from the Kids’ Chicken Barbeque Cookoff at the County Fair last Friday. My 10-year old was competing in this event for the first time. Her sister had participated over the past 4 summers, so we know a lot about how the cookoff works. It’s about hot coals, grill marks, and tasty, juicy chicken cooked beyond 160 degrees. It’s also about orchestrating a lot of steps in a pressure-packed competitive outdoor environment at a young age. Stressful, indeed.

My youngest was keeping her cool incredibly well, despite the blazing heat. That was until half her chicken went promptly from the grill to her cutting board to the ground. Instantly, tears spilled down her hot, rosy, famously round cheeks. From the cheering section, we shouted words of encouragement – “It’s okay! Keep going.”

Meanwhile, my close friend who I call Mel B. was there for support like she is every year, and she asked me what we were going to do with that chicken breast in the grass. “I don’t really know,” I replied. And with that, she stood up, walked over, and picked it up off the ground. As she came up with that chicken in her hand, the professional grilling judge noticed her out of the corner of his eye.

“What are you going to do with that?” he asked her.

She froze. She was busted. She stood there and stared at him for a few seconds contemplating what to tell him.

Then, matter of factly, she responded, “I’m going to go wash it off. Then I’m going to eat it.”

“Good. That’s exactly what I would do,” he answered.

That’s what happened next. Mel rinsed off the chicken inside and laid it back on my daughter’s charcoal grill where it sizzled happily.

Sometimes in life, you accidentally dump your chicken on the ground and you think it’s all over, then that same life surprises you an hour later with a purple ribbon. My daughter won her division as the Champion Beginner BBQ’er that morning. She received kudos from the judge for her perseverance under challenging circumstances. In fact, he asked her to share the story with the crowd about what had happened at her station: how the chicken had fallen onto the ground and how she/we/Mel B. boldly saved it and cooked it anyway. All of us who were there as part of this experience will not soon forget it.

Bold is beautiful in my book,
Meesh

 

The Improbable Tale of Nellie North

nellie

When you survive hard things, you know they’re meant to be. I know this for a fact based on the past year of my life, and my recent move is yet another prime example.

This story begins as many of mine do, with my children, The Precious Pair. They have a quirky habit of giving names to things, not just living things like pets and plants, but also cars and houses. For instance, my former car was Tessa the Taxi. My brand-new one is yet to be named. And they called the house we lived in for 11 years and sold earlier this month, Larry Sommerwood. The name they’ve given our new home (actually, it’s super old/circa 1900) is Nellie North, based on a variety of factors I can’t really explain on the girls’ behalf. But it seems to fit the house well, all the same…

Back in March as I was prepping to list “Larry” for sale, one of my best friends was substitute teaching at the grade school located in the downtown area where I’d been searching for a house since August 2018. This particular property was not even listed for sale, but it did appear to be under renovation. So I did what any proactive, semi-pushy person would do, and after driving by it several times on my own, I sent my trusted Realtor to knock on the door. After all, I had fallen instantly in love with what I was seeing, at least on the outside. I needed to see more.

On that afternoon that set my milestone in motion, my agent encountered a small crew of contractors, she scored their boss’s business card, and she and I proceeded to wander uninvited through the half-finished, yet clearly adorable little sage green house on the corner. Once we had finished the walk-through and based on the size and scope of this home, we both determined there was likely no way I’d be able to afford it. We waited to hear back from The Flippers.

Meanwhile, I drove the girls by this house as I had done with many others. “What do you think of this one?” Well, they too deemed it practically perfect at first sight. All of us were crushing on Nellie North.

About a week later I got the lucky call from my Realtor. She had made official contact with the owners, and amazingly the price was doable for me. Within days, I signed a purchase agreement and began the mortgage process which went swimmingly until The Appraisal, which came in a whopping $23,000 under the sale price I had offered to pay. The transaction fell suddenly on the rocks and looked like it wasn’t going to happen after all. My Flippers experienced sticker shock at the deep discount suddenly applied to their diamond in the rough. Ultimately, after another full week, we met almost exactly in the middle of the differential. I agreed to overpay the appraisal and bring a hunk of cash to the table, and they agreed to give up about the same amount in their profits. The only stumbling block now would be The Inspection and The Re-Inspection. There were a ton of back and forth disagreements during this phase of the deal, and somehow we made it through all of that, too.

I loved just about everything about the house. The size. The layout. The kitchen, large enough for dancing. 4 bedrooms. 2 full baths. A mud room with a boot bench. A vintage staircase. A wraparound porch. A fenced backyard. There was only one exception: The Basement.

You can’t even call it that. It’s not worthy of the term. I’ve used many others words to describe it to people, mainly to the multiple vendors I’ve already sent down there in 3 weeks’ time. Let’s see, I’ve referred to it as “The Hole” – “The Dungeon” – and most frequently – “The Cellar.”

Have I mentioned I have never actually seen this area of my home myself? Nor do I ever intend to see it; NEVER. Brick walls. Dirt floors. No lights. I tell people that zombies are the sole reason I would ever lift that trap door in the floor of my laundry room beneath the dryer and descend the 8-foot ladder into that space. As much as I hate tornados, I won’t even go down there for that purpose. We have a perfectly fine windowless interior hallway for storm protection. Zombies on the loose: that’s the ONLY way you will find me in my “basement.”

But there were and there continue to be problems in that part of the house. Leaks. Clogged drains. Seepage through the walls. I’m told I need a $2,500 sump pump and an additional $4,000 worth of work on the drains/pipes. I uncovered these matters after my toilets flushed inconsistently upon moving in, my tub backed up brown gunk, and the entire house bubbles and gurgles and burps anytime there is a water-based event like a load of laundry, a sink full of dishwater, or a shower. Of course, my home warranty is useless to me, so we’ve lived with these issues while pursuing our options. Based on the best advice I’ve gotten so far, I invested in a $20 bottle of enzymes called Main Line Cleaner from Lowes – my most frequently visited retailer this month. I’ve dumped and flushed this stuff for two nights into two toilets. I feel like it’s working something out down below. I can hope.

On the other side of this real estate transaction, at midnight on Moving Day, after 13 hours of loading and unloading with our moving crew, the girls and I returned to the empty house to say our goodbyes. We took CiCi the Pug along and left Sunny the New Corgi Puppy behind. (Trust me, she deserves her own blog posting soon.) After our final walk-through, we headed to the car, CiCi jumped inside, and then I had a late-breaking idea. “Girls, let’s go back inside for a minute.”

I took them straight to the growth chart wall in the entryway, the wall I’ve spoken about before here on this site and on Facebook. I had contemplated many different ways to transfer or preserve the markings I began on this wall in 2010. Ultimately though, I decided there was no duplicating it, not in an authentic way. I decided to leave the notches behind, including the final two measurements I took and dated in pencil that night. We took photos by the wall to commemorate this bittersweet moment in time; then we were done and more than ready for sleep.

We got to the car and pulled at the doors. Locked. But where are my keys? Inside. No way. Of course not. How would that happen? And there was CiCi inside peering out at us. She had locked us out of the car in the driveway of the home we technically – as of midnight – no longer owned. Thank goodness for our friends at Triple A, and the $89 membership Little Payne won for me at the State Fair last year by spinning a prize wheel. That night I called them for help for the 5th time in 2019, so far.

After the locksmith rescued us and reunited us with CiCi, we headed three miles due north, the driving equivalent of 10 minutes. And we spent our first night in our new home on June the 5th.

Since then, three weeks have passed. Despite the plumbing woes, I’m utterly thrilled to be there. It seems at times unbelievable that we made it , with all the obstacles and uncertainties we faced. I’ve described this house to some friends as “my little piece of Maine right here in Indiana.” And if you know me at all, you know my love affair with the State of Maine, where I hope to retire someday.

Why should I ramble on and on about my real estate transaction? I consider it a lesson to any reader out there that Life. Is. Hard. Right before it becomes sheerly wonderful.

I have a day coming to me, Lord willing, that I have spoken about many times in recent months with others, both in person and on social media. It’s a vision of myself sitting on my new wraparound porch on my white porch swing with a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) in hand. The coffee is spiked with bourbon, which is a fun thing I like to do to my Starbucks once in a while. The timing is important because this day will likely take place in early fall, my favorite season and at a time that will represent a full year and then some of me enduring hard things. There will be a slight crispness in the air. The kids will be back in school. (Have I mentioned we live across the street from a really cool elementary school playground!?!) This vision of myself is within reach and reality with only about 100 hot summer days and nights and a mountain of moving boxes to unpack in my path. But it’s closer than ever after surviving one of the most stressful experiences of my entire 46 years, and that was the purchase of Nellie North and the move that followed.

What I learned from it:

Keep moving.
Keep asking.
Keep pushing.
Keep pulling.
Keep pressing.
Keep purging.
Keep packing.
Keep resting.
Keep cursing.
Keep praying.
Keep fighting.
Keep hugging.
Keep laughing.
Keep loving.
Keep enduring.

Whatever you do, keep. Whatever that looks like to you. Whatever that means. Continue to do things purposefully and to represent yourself intentionally. This is why we’re here, so I believe. Even when life sucks, we still owe it. We owe life the best part of our brains, our hearts, and our guts. If you’re not transacting life with these three forms of payment, why the hell not? What’s stopping you? What’s in your path? If it’s boxes, literally like mine or figuratively your own kind, unpack them. One by one. Empty them. Recycle them. Donate them. Then be done with their contents, or at least store them tidily on a shelf in the garage. (Oh my gosh, you should see my garage!?! It’s where half of what I own is currently kept. My goal by the first freeze of Winter is to clear a spot big enough to squeeze my car in there. Hopefully by then, she will be properly named!)

This is what Nellie has taught me so far. Undoubtedly, much like Larry did, she has many more lessons in store. Probably a few are lurking in my zombie bunker. But you’re far more likely to find me on the porch.

Moved — in more ways than one,
Meesh

What We Can Learn from School Lunch

jonathan-borba-1397924-unsplash

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and there is only one four-day week left on the 2018–19 school calendar. It seems only fitting to post a school-inspired story right now. There are so many memories and things to choose from since last August, when The Precious Pair began eighth grade and fourth grade. In this past year, all three of our lives have changed dramatically. We have established what we call our New Normal. More about that soon…

But let’s start with a question I’ve had on my mind – what’s the deal with school lunch? I’ve heard and read about it becoming more of what it should be in recent years, thanks largely to Michelle Obama during her two terms as First Lady. She made it her mission to clean up school nutrition nationally, pushing through new and more stringent guidelines for what is served in school cafeterias throughout this fine country.

Seemingly, based on all we’ve heard, we ate poison as school children back in the 70’s and 80’s. My memories of school lunch begin as a student in the primary grades, when my mom worked part-time as a substitute lunch lady. As a single mom of two, she had several diverse jobs. But my personal favorite was her role as the occasional lunch lady. On the days she appeared with a hairnet and plastic gloves passing the pastel plastic trays to my fellow students and me, I felt like quite the celebrity. Everyone knew that was my mom behind the lunch line, smiling and serving us. I took great pride in being her daughter on those days, and now nearly 40 years later, I’ve experienced that same beaming pride time and time again.

But even my own mom never noticed or mentioned that the food at school was killing us softly. You would think that was the case anyway, according to today’s trendy standards and comparisons to yesteryear’s menus.

Fruits and vegetables are now served in droves, not merely doses – at least in some of the local schools. The canned green peas of 1976 certainly no longer measure up. I mention those specifically because of that one time my older brother in the third grade plucked one of those peas from his tray and flicked it with a fork onto the ceiling. Of course, it got stuck up there. And he was caught green-handed by the cafeteria monitor, and he was sent to the dunce corner or whatever they did back then as discipline. Heaven forbid that had been a day when my mom was working the lunchline. How embarrassing that must have been for her! Shame on you, Big Brother.

Vegetables no longer come in a massive white generic labeled can at school. They appear bright and fresh and speckled with dew drops. I know because my youngest enjoys the luxury of a fresh produce bar at her grade school. I am always in awe of the spread that’s provided. And I think to myself, whomever is responsible for washing and prepping and peeling and chopping all of that, bless them, because it has got to be a huge pain in the ass. But some dear soul does it all in the spirit of increased vitamin intake for the kids.

So, yes, there do appear to be many healthier differences between school lunch in 2019 and that of decades ago. However, I am perplexed about a few of these differences:

#1. Ironically, if you’re vegetarian in middle school, you’re tough out of luck. Despite what I said about fruits and veggies above, the teenagers I know claim middle school is No Man’s Land for a vegetarian meal. You can count on a side salad or an order of four smiley-faced mashed potato fries. (Ew.) Or there’s the Hummus Kit, and thank goodness for that, or my 8th grader would pass out on the days she forgets to pack her lunch. I hope high school brings her a few more heartier options.

#2. What has happened to the rectangular slice of pizza? Today they serve a triangular slice. Or – get this – a full, round personal pizza! Why they had to mess with the delicious rectangular slice from my memories, I do not understand. After all, it used to fit perfectly in the spot on the lunch tray. As if it was meant to be there in all its cheesy gooey glory. I mean, do you know anyone who did not eat school lunch on Pizza Day in 1988!?! Even though it was typically served with those peas I already mentioned.

#3. Proteins are now served as Rings, Poppers, Chips, Nuggets, Chunks, and in Various Other Unnatural Formats. WTH? How can an order of Chicken Chips or Rings be something healthful? I’m not comfortable with this.  How about the old-fashioned breaded chicken filet or the even healthier, trendier grilled chicken breast?  These preparations don’t feel like outlandish requests when it comes to chicken.

#4. “The nasty hamburger with the nasty cheese.” This is the way my youngest describes the hamburger entree at school. Although I’m not a big meat eater, I do not recall eating a nasty cheeseburger in my entire life. Even a low-quality cheeseburger normally tastes delish. And 99% of little kids love burgers. (No source for this stat.) Yet the school soyburger tastes bad, even to a little kid. Yuck.

One thing I can say about school lunch back then and still today is that it’s consistent. Picture the color-coded calendars that show you the Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue Weeks that spell out specifically the menu each day, right down to entree choices and multiple side items. A parent and student can always find out “What’s for Lunch?” Even if it’s reliably terrible. (The only exception is next week, when the menu goes rogue with the year’s leftovers or “Manager’s Choice” as I believe they spin it!)

Last year in August when school was starting, my girls and I began talking about our New Normal and what it was going to mean and what it was going to look like. At that point, we felt the incredible weight of that newness. Our lifestyle was suddenly something foreign and uncomfortable, for sure. It was a daunting task to achieve what was ahead of us – healing, adjusting, re-calibrating, and becoming a very different family unit.

Luckily, my reliable old friend Consistency has been here for us. It’s a quality I cannot speak highly enough about. It’s the real reason I’ve been yammering on about school lunch above, as a timely analogy – and if you read my last entry “Zombies Can’t Open Doors” you already know how I love a good, creative analogy.

Some would associate Consistency with Boredom. But I do not. There’s nothing boring about being a good steward of your behavior and habits. It is, in fact, quite admirable, responsible, and beautiful to be the person you are on a reliable basis, for the benefit of those who surround you daily, including but not limited to: your children; spouse, partner, or date; parents, siblings, and other family members; friends; neighbors; coworkers, direct reports, and bosses; your kids’ teachers; the quirky clerk you always see at Dollar Tree; and the hipster barista you know at your Town Square coffee spot where the motto is “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks” (Lord knows, I drink gallons of that, too, though!) When these people see you coming, they want the comfort of knowing you and what you represent. As humans, we crave normalcy and predictability and stability and security because those feelings are good and simple and pure and calming, among all the chaos of our surroundings.

So I plead with you, be consistent. As I said, that’s how we’ve tackled the challenges my daughters and I have faced together thus far. We consistently talk, cook and bake, listen to and sing along with our favorite tunes – sometimes really loud – via Alexa, our loyal DJ. (ABBA makes an appearance on our playlist nightly.) We enjoy our creature of habit comforts such as our soft living room blankies; phone calls and FaceTimes with grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins; and treats like Rapid Pick-Up Panera, lately enjoyed out on our screened porch because we like to dine “al fresco” when the air is just right. And, for added comfort and support, we go to our new and very accepting church regularly, and we visit our amazing counselor frequently.

Annnddd, now we’re getting ready to dump Consistency on its head. We have a pending move to a new and smaller home. This will coincide with – thanks to my terrible yet well-intentioned timing – the arrival of a 10-week old Corgi puppy we’ve named Sunny. There she will join 7-year old pug, CiCi. Yikes! As in the case of chicken served as rings, I never could have predicted all of this would be happening.

But life takes on new and unexpectedly different forms every. single. day. We either enthusiastically consume the opportunities presented to us, or we resist them and go hungry and angry. (Hangry.) I recommend keeping an open-minded appetite for what The Day brings. If I may borrow an awesome one-liner, I consistently choose to “rejoice and be glad in it.”

Let’s do lunch soon!
Meesh

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

I Used to Be Cute, Then I Had a Kid by Laura Marks O’Brien

sistersnew momNote: This is my second installment featuring a guest blogger – my Sister! Many thanks for her willingness to share a story here on my site. I’ll be hitting up other family and friends to commit to more guest appearances. I have lots of Word Nerds in my life who inspire me, so this is my special way to feature and thank them for their positive and encouraging influences upon me. 

 

If I’m going to be completely honest, I probably stopped being cute a number of years before I had my kid. But I came across the photo above of my sister and me in Charleston in 2007, when times were different for both of us in many different respects. And, since this is my sister’s blog, I thought it would be fitting to display the two of us looking our best. Hence the picture from 12 years ago.

Like my sister, I was an English minor and have always enjoyed writing. I even (voluntarily) took creative writing classes through the county back in 2006 and wrote a number of short stories based upon randomly assigned themes. There’s a “My Writings” folder saved to my Yahoo e-mail account (yes, I still use Yahoo) that hasn’t been added to since 2007. Aha, the year I started law school! Yes, one day in late 2006 I suddenly realized that my LSAT scores were about to expire, and it was now or never. So now all of my writing consists of drafting documents beginning with “COMES NOW THE PLAINTIFF” (or Defendant – I practice family law, so we represent both) and ending with “WHEREFORE.” Until now, when my sister Mitchie (a.k.a. Meesh or Michelle) asked me to be a guest blogger on IAMNOTYOURMOM.com. So here goes.

My best ideas for writing come to me when I am awake in the middle of the night, on the cusp of sleep, but not quite, my mind racing yet tired at the same time. Unlike my sister, who tends to draft her blog entries during bouts of insomnia, I just lie there, tossing and turning, sweating, pushing the dog over as many inches as I can, because she’s encroaching on my space again, all while formulating some really great ideas, even down to the sentence, but not actually writing anything down. Such a waste of potential! Maybe Apple can invent a device to track our thoughts and record them at all times so our productivity can be maximized to its fullest extent! Or not…

Anyway, back to the theme of my blog entry: on Valentine’s Day 2017, Cupid delivered the most precious gift ever . . . my six pound, four ounce little bundle of writhing and wrinkled joy, wrapped in the ubiquitous white, pink, and blue baby blanket that appears to be distributed to EVERY SINGLE child born in a hospital in the United States. (Did you know that these blankets are made in Pakistan? Funny, since 99.999% of the other baby/toddler/child products that I own are MADE IN CHINA.) The second photo above is the first photo taken of Baby J and her proud mama. For real. I think I was still in shock that the ultrasounds hadn’t been misread, and she actually had 10 fingers and 10 toes and a perfectly formed head and all of her body parts seemed to be present and intact. (Upon viewing this photo, you now surely understand why this blog entry is entitled “I USED to be cute.”)

Twenty-four hours after being admitted to the hospital, 22 hours after having Cervadil shoved up you-know-where, 12 hours after the first dose of Pitocin was administered through an IV, and after having two “peanut balls” shoved between my legs, one epidural jammed into my spine (yes, it only took one! Lucky me!), one catheter inserted another you-know-where, and a gazillion ice chips later (um, no one told me you couldn’t even drink WATER while in labor?!), out she came at 7:39 p.m. (EST). In the course of 24 hours, my birthing canal (or whatever the medically correct term is – I don’t want to gross anyone out by the use of any gynecological terms; although I know that my fellow mom readers will understand, because they, too, have had their legs spread for all the world to see at one point or another) had gone from the “size of a pencil tip” to 10 centimeters! And the expansion from 3 to 10 centimeters had occurred in less than an hour! And this birthing tale is no sweat compared to so many others.

It’s fun to share mom stories. The authors of #IMomSoHard (one of whom, Jen Smedley, actually went to my high school in Bellevue, Nebraska!) recently published an entire book of their mom tales. Like they say, “From trying to get your kid to eat just one freakin’ green bean, to wondering why it feels like you disappeared the day you became a mom, they get it. They get you.” (Wondering if Mitchie will require me to add a citation here. Regardless, this is a great book and I highly recommend it!) (Do I use too many parentheticals, by the way?)

In true legal fashion, I share with you the following bullet points illustrating just a few of my tales of momdom, in no particular order.

  • Wondering why your toddler still hasn’t woken up by 7:45 one morning and entering her room only to be greeted by a giant pile of barf in her crib, with her face half-lying in pile of said barf. This would probably not be that memorable or repulsive of a moment to most, but when you are a true emetophobe (emetophobia: intense anxiety pertaining to vomiting. It is for real – look it up on Wiki! Matt Lauer and Denise Richards are fellow emetophobes! My emetophobia is the reason I avoided all professions relating to medicine or teaching. But then I became a mother…) it is particularly gut-wrenching. Especially when your husband has just departed several hours earlier for a morning flight to Columbus, where he will be on a work trip all day. Yet, although you are repulsed and disgusted with the prospect of dealing with barf all day, you are secretly radiating with happiness that you get to stay home from work and spend the whole day with your baby, just the two of you.
  • Multitasking to the extreme such that you don’t actually complete any tasks at all. A true oxymoron. For example, seeing a bowl in the sink that you intend to put in the dishwasher which reminds you to fill the dog’s bowl with food which reminds you that you need to take the dog out (the dog who used to be your “fur baby” but suffered a complete downgrade in status since baby came along) which reminds you to replenish the dog’s poop bags which are stored in a little bone shaped dispenser hanging from her leash which reminds you that the baby’s diaper genie is full which reminds you that you need to bring more diapers downstairs from the stash which is stored in your child’s bedroom which reminds you that you haven’t actually changed your child’s diaper in five hours which reminds you that you really need to start potty training which reminds you that you need to buy a toddler potty which reminds you to look at the different options available on the Target website, and we know that once you open that Target website or enter a Target store, there’s no turning back. Oh yeah, and that dirty bowl is still in the sink. And while you’ve been looking at the Target website on your phone, the dog has taken a giant dump on the carpet and your kid has climbed on top of the kitchen table and has removed her shirt, only to be standing there in a dirty diaper, topless, screaming that she wants to watch Peppa Pig.
  • And speaking of Peppa Pig, being able to recite the names of every single member of Peppa’s playgroup – Rebecca Rabbit, Suzy Sheep, Emily Elephant, Pedro Pony, Danny Dog, Candy Cat, Zoe Zebra, Freddy Fox, and in later episodes, Gerald Giraffe, Molly Mole, Mandy Mouse, and Pandora and Peggi Panda, AND each of their parents’ respective professions – I mean, you didn’t know that Daddy Pig is an architect? – but when asked today’s date, you seriously have no idea and might not even recall the current month. But you do know if it is a Monday through Friday, because you have to go to work on those days and leave your child, the most important person in your life, with strangers, essentially (a.k.a. DAYCARE).
  • And speaking of daycare, rushing out of work no later than 5:00 p.m. in order to get to daycare by 5:30 p.m., only to find that there has been an accident on I-66 because there is ALWAYS ongoing construction and putting the daycare’s destination into Waze and being routed through streets and neighborhoods you didn’t even know existed in order to get to your final destination in what ends up being 40 minutes rather than the routine 20 minutes.
  • And speaking of work, usually leaving work by no later than 5:00 p.m. even though before baby was born you never left any earlier than 6:00 p.m. and knowing in the back of your mind that you are being resented and prevented from being paid more because of it – but also knowing that those few hours you spend with your child from the time you pick her up until you put her to bed two hours later are priceless.
  • And speaking of putting your child to bed, you then take a shower because the only time you have to sufficiently cleanse yourself is after she is in bed. Which means that you go to bed with wet hair because you are too tired to blow it dry and thus wake up with crazy bedhead which you not-so-proudly sport to work each morning.
  • And speaking of wishing you could be a stay-at-home mom but then after one full day alone with your kid, looking forward to going back to work where you can have a cup of coffee without interruption and have conversations that do not revolve around Doc McStuffins.
  • And speaking of Doc McStuffins, knowing all the words to her theme song, which floats through your head all day long, and also knowing all the words to “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” which is your daughter’s favorite song, and wondering why she loves the song so much when it refers to a man as a “master” and a woman as a “dame.” I mean, WTF?
  • Sitting on the floor all the time – at your house, at the library, at the park, on the sidewalk, everywhere, so you can be at your child’s level. And feeling really old when you have to use both hands in order to push yourself up from off the floor.
  • Only wearing makeup on “special occasions” and realizing that your mascara has dried out because it’s been so long since you’ve last applied it.
  • Telling other moms how old your kid is when they ask and always receiving the response, “Oh, what a great age!” And then wondering if this age (i.e., two) is supposed to be so great, then what am I in for in the future?!
  • Crying when you see ads for diapers or Johnson & Johnson products, or really any product that shows a baby growing up. Or maybe you don’t watch TV because you really don’t have time for it. Or maybe you only watch Masterpiece on PBS and British police dramas on Acorn TV because you’re turning into your own parents even though you’re not even 40 yet.
  • Having to sit through meetings where clients go on and on about their own children and really just wishing that you could spend this moment with your kid instead.
  • Wondering how on earth parents can handle multiple children, especially children who are close in age, because you struggle to keep control of just one.
  • Breaking out in a sweat every morning, because that’s how much effort it takes to clothe your child in a diaper, shirt, pants, socks, and shoes. The same exertion of effort applies when you try to brush her teeth, although lately she’s been complying if you tell her she has play-doh stuck in her teeth and you have to get it off or else her teeth will rot.
  • Speaking of play-doh, that stuff is described as “non-toxic,” but wow, will it ever do a number on your carpet.
  • Breaking out in a smile because you can’t get over how cute it is when your daughter serves you a plate of play salami and a plastic T-bone steak when in reality, the only meat she will even come close to touching is a Tysons Dino Nugget made of “chicken breast with rib meat.” And it’s considered a huge victory if she eats the entire nugget.
  • Still subscribing to the old school Yahoo email which is filled daily with tons and tons of emails from BabyCenter, Parents, The Bump, The Nest, Mothers of North Arlington, HowToBeAGreatMom, etc. which you glance at and think, wow, I could really learn something from this, I’ll read it someday! But you never do and now your inbox has 737 unread messages.
  • Waking up to your child’s cries as early as 6:15 some days, but still feeling that rush of excitement pump through you each time because the best part of your day is seeing your little girl’s face.
  • Belatedly sending others’ birthday cards, gifts, and other tokens recognizing special occasions, but planning your kid’s birthday party at least two months prior to the big celebration. Which also entails purchasing a gazillion dollars of items on Amazon, including a 4 foot Peppa Pig balloon.

Speaking of belatedly acknowledging holidays, a belated Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day to those of you who are lucky enough to be parents. I am blessed beyond belief to have the privilege and honor to be a mother, and equally blessed to know so many amazing, dedicated mothers, including but not limited to: my own; the owner of this blog; my mother-in-law; my sister-in-law; and my five fellow mom co-workers, with whom I love sharing my tales of momdom. And if there’s any point to this blog, it’s to encourage you to share your own tales of momdom and daddom and auntdom and uncledom and sisterdom and brotherdom and whatever the heckdom with anyone who is willing to listen. Because everyone has these wacky moments, mom or not. And when we share our downfalls and delights, not only do we make others feel better, but we end up feeling better about ourselves, too.

Dedicated to Baby J,
Laura

Zombies Can’t Open Doors

13A31014-E3E0-4D31-8BCF-1D6B8D513C49If you know me even a little bit, you know I am a coffee addict, a night owl, and a word nerd. Trust me, it has taken a lot of caffeine and many late nights to keep this blog going for three months in a row now. In three years, I know I will look back on this statement and scoff at myself for thinking three months as a blogger was an accomplishment. But here I am, pretty darn happy I have kept this thing up so far.

My love of words started as far back as I can remember. Around age 4, I decided to be an author when I grew up. In first grade, I wrote a play and it won a contest and kids actually performed it. The story focused on an elephant in a toy store, and I can’t remember much else. Yet I do remember it was a milestone in my writing history.

Then middle school, high school, and college happened and with those years came countless essays, term papers, and creative writing assignments. I ended up as a Communications major with an English minor at a liberal arts college. I went on to become a 25-year communications professional, and still going. One trick pony? Sometimes I think maybe…

But as the lifelong word nerd that I am, I have to say I’m quite proud when I see shades of the same within my two children, The Precious Pair. Nothing has stirred this pride in me more than a recent car conversation with my youngest.

This entire blog revolves around an analogy she created, but first let me comment on analogies. All good writers know their purpose is symbolic comparison, and they are to be used sparingly and creatively in one’s writing. Nothing worse than an overdone analogy, otherwise known as a cliche. Word nerd writer types like to turn cliches on their heads with original spins.

My 10-year old’s analogy was a true original, and ever since she mentioned it, I can’t stop thinking about it:

HER: “Well, you know how zombies can’t open doors?” (She asked me this matter-of-factly, as if everyone should know it already.)

ME: “No, I guess I never realized that, but it makes sense. Their arms aren’t really functional, since they’re dried up and dead, right?”

HER: “Right! So think about it, all of us are zombies when it comes to someone else’s heart.”

ME: “Okay, how do you mean?”

HER: “We are all zombies because we can’t open the door to anyone’s heart, unless it’s our very own heartdoor to open. The zombies are my family and friends. They can lean and push against the door to my heart. But only I can decide to let them in.”

ME: (Mind blown.) “Wow, I guess you’re right. That’s a pretty fantastic analogy.”

HER: “Yes, and happy people let the zombies in. Unhappy people have a harder time letting them in, which is a little sad.”

ME: “I agree. I’m glad that people like you and me let a lot of people, I mean, zombies into our hearts.”

HER: “Me, too, Momma.”

This recent exchange has led me to think deeply about the past year of my life and several different doors I’ve been leaning on and pushing on like a zombie. Personal relationships, career challenges, legal struggles, and real estate transactions, all included. The past 10 months have beat me up on many days. But as in the analogy, a zombie doesn’t feel pain.

Maybe that’s why I keep pushing on some impossible-to-open doors so hard. I’m not allowing myself to feel the pain; that is, until one of the doorkeepers opens their door a tiny crack to say “This one is not gonna’ open for you, so why make a fool of yourself trying?”

Then reality sets in. I’m not a zombie after all. I’m a living, breathing, feeling, flawed, and – yes – sometimes foolish human being. And I’ve encountered my fair share of door slamming lately.

What do I mean? People whom I wish would heal who aren’t ready to heal. Promotions I’ve gone for that I’m not going to get. Employees I want to hire with no budget to do so. The quiet cubicle I need that’s still one year away in the blueprint. The price I ask for my house that no one is willing to pay. My moving date that keeps moving. A clear view of my future that appears only as a fogged mirror.

Wow, that’s quite a list.
Yet, this list is Life.

Rejection;
Uncertainty;
Instability;
Disappointment;
Failure.

Sometimes we zombies need to take a step away from the locked doors to find different ones. Look for glass doors you can see into. Screened doors you can feel the breeze through. Colorful painted doors that welcome you. Automated doors with the silver button on the wall – even a zombie can lean against that button and open that door!

Find your doors. The ones that are meant and made just for you. The ones that joyfully fly open when they see you coming!

Matters of the heartdoors are complicated. That’s why we have the expression “a change of heart.” The muscle in our chest is not the most reliable tool for decision making. That’s why I now insist on blending and balancing the emotions of what my heart tells me with the sensibility of what my brain tells me. The heart and brain work together to form the reliability of the gut instinct. The gut allows the door of the heart to stay closed for protective purposes, and in other cases to open more readily when the rewards just might outweigh the risks.

“There are no guarantees.”
“Always listen to your gut.”                           “If it’s not your door, it won’t open.”               What great clichés!

“Lean on your fellow zombies.”
No cliche intended.

These deep thoughts were sponsored by my daughter, The Little Analogy Genius. I will encourage her to keep up with her word-nerding along with her number-nerding. (She’s wayyyyyyy better at math than her sister and me.) In fact, I hope she keeps on nerding in general because we‘re going to need her and all the other young smart ones when the REAL zombies invade!

With love from my gut,
Meesh

What Derby Day Means to Me

7066AD5C-EC31-4B64-973A-A0CF970732A8When I was 10, I moved to a Kentucky horse farm. I was a suburban kid who had lived in the same house in Nebraska for all my life. The only horses I had known up to that point were the lazy, slow, old, and seemingly drugged kind that people ride at campgrounds. But there I was, suddenly living on a real working farm, where the horses were not the campground kind.

They were thoroughbreds and it didn’t take long for me to learn the sheer power of these creatures. My 18-year old stepsister took me riding with her one afternoon. A bird spooked our horse, he jumped unexpectedly, and we fell off. I broke my right wrist. I never rode another horse on the farm again.

But I did live all my tween and teen years around them. I watched them prance in the pastures, I watched mothers give birth, I watched babies grow, I watched many of them get sold to new owners, and I watched them race at several different tracks. All these activities were underwhelming and often downright boring to me, the former suburban kid.

Then I went away to college, graduated, and started adulting, all next door in Indiana. As if overnight, I developed an appreciation for my background as the child and stepchild of horse farmers.

It was fun to tell people I was from Kentucky. They usually reacted with a snarky comment about kissing cousins or a joke that claimed Hoosiers to be superior. I would always defend my Bluegrass State by saying “We have just as many jokes about Indiana as you people have about Kentucky!” I’m lucky no one ever asked me to tell one of those jokes because I didn’t actually know any.

While still in college, I attended my first and only-so-far Kentucky Derby. Let me be clear that it was not the proper way to attend The Derby. I didn’t wear a huge hat or a fancy dress. I was part of the mosh pit called The Infield. I don’t recall seeing a single horse; I drank cheap beer, not classy mint juleps; and, for whatever strange reason someone sprayed a container of ranch dressing from their cooler into the air, and I was one of the victims struck by it. Did I mention I wasn’t there with any of my good friends? I had been invited by a boy one year ahead of me, so I was there with his friends. I was desperate for mine!

So we can chalk that Derby experience up to a good story, but not much fun. But I do have happier ones to share that happened years later…one is the story of My Big Win.

As a young adult, I started betting on The Derby. I would make my picks by the morning of, then get to a track or an OTB (off-track betting) to place my wagers. I have always preferred the trifecta, a bet where you must pick the top 3 horses that finish best. The type of trifecta I use allows my horses to come in any order, rather than picking the exact 1-2-3 placements. Each year, I study the horses during the week leading up to the race. I look at their win records, their earnings, and their speeds from similar runs. There’s a science to my picks; they’re never random. Except in 2004.

It was the 130th running of the Kentucky Derby, and I was 5 months pregnant with my oldest daughter. I had identified 2 horses I really liked, Smarty Jones and Lion Heart, but I wasn’t feeling drawn to a third. So I went with the pink jockey silks paired with a horse named Imperialism, in honor of my baby girl on the way. I remember so well watching that race by myself in the basement of my first old house in the hipster part of the city. I remember the finish and thinking maybe I had won. Once I confirmed it, I whooped and hollered and jumped up and down, even in my much larger than normal physical state. I remember calling both sets of my parents to share the big news: yes, I had indeed won $987.60 on my Kentucky Derby trifecta ticket.

I paid for a crib and bright duckling yellow paint for the nursery and other baby stuff we still needed. And you better believe, ever since, I never miss betting a trifecta on The Derby.

Even my dad who hates Vegas and all other forms of gambling enjoys “betting the ponies.” So it runs in my blood from both sides of my family. No wonder I have a knack for it.

After moving to the suburbs in 2008, I started throwing Derby parties, complete with a cash betting pool and handmade mint juleps in different flavors. Because, trust me, a plain one tastes gross. I’ve created cherry, peach, and raspberry. All have been popular with my partygoers and quite delicious. (Fun Fact: I’m known among my friends for my mixology skills.) One year I made bourbon margaritas on, and everyone was surprised when they really liked them. I also served plenty of Mexican food for that Cinco de Derby, in lieu of the usual Southern snacks. May 5th is our pug CiCi’s birthday, too, so we had “pupcakes” in her honor.

This year on the first Saturday in May I will be placing a bet, but I will not be throwing a party for multiple reasons. I’m in the middle of a big move, plus I won’t be home. I am attending a wedding…

My dear friend “Rizzo” came to my desk last fall to share her important news with me. “We picked the date for our wedding and it’s May 4th, and, yes, that’s Derby Day,” she stated to me matter-of-factly. It was as if she thought I might be inconvenienced, because she knew about my infatuation with The Derby.

Of course I responded with the true joy I felt for this announcement, “Well, that is such a cool day to have a wedding!”

Riz came to my company seven years ago in her early twenties. She started and quickly excelled in an entry-level position and soon interviewed for a sales job in the same department as me. So we became coworkers separated by just a few cubicle walls. Then we became fast friends, connecting on a deep level about so many things – relationships, career paths, family matters, and our childhoods.

She’s not only a friend; she has become like an aunt to The Precious Pair, exchanging notes and gifts with them over the years. We have visited her at home, too. There was once an epic scavenger hunt inside an antique mall that she created for them, and last fall we had a sleepover at her house that turned out to be one of those unforgettable game nights. – see previous blog “It Was My Family, in the Kitchen, with a Board Game…”

Riz and I have also shared more Milanesa chicken sandwiches than I can count at a place called Bakersfield, not too far from our office. It’s our little lunch tradition. Lunches with her are rare these days since we’ve both become busier in our roles at work, yet whenever we can squeeze one in, it’s always mutually rewarding.

I value my time with this bride. She’s wise beyond her years, which allows her to be one of the best listeners and advice givers I’ve ever known. We’ve been lucky to get to know her hubby-to-be, too. He is incredibly talented (he can create just about anything from a hunk of wood), and he’s calming, kind, and a ton of fun to be around. But he’s never once worked in a soup kitchen, so he might want to work on that! (An inside joke that’s fun to include here.)

For their Happy Hour Shower at work, there was only one gift worthy for me to give them: a set of commemorative 2019 Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses emblazoned with their upcoming wedding date of May 4th. I told them I will get more sets in the years ahead to honor the special timing of their wedding day.

There are certain days in all our lives that mean so much to us. Birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays are the obvious ones. Other special days are more obscure and individualized. Think about it – what are the days that feel like holidays to you every year, even if they aren’t official? Derby Day is that to me. It represents so many things…My Old Kentucky Home, my friends and my parties, rich traditions, Lady Luck, and now it will also signify the union of two dear people I adore.

Sportscasters often refer to it as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” With a dirt track of 1 1/4 miles, The Derby is a race that’s about speed first, then endurance.

I’m proud of and inspired by Miss Rizzo and Mr. Finley because they have the special endurance and dedication that’s needed for marriage, the same traits the Derby horses and their hard-working humans need to end up as winners.

You’re already winners to me, Finzos. And I look forward to watching you two succeed more and more together. Watch for invitations to my Derby Parties in the future. We will toast mint juleps in your honor for your anniversaries.

But first, I can’t wait for your spectacular wedding day!

Cheers,
Meesh

There’s a First Time for Everything…to Go Wrong

When think about high school, there’s nothing more iconic than The Prom. I’m reminded of it every year at this time when social media becomes a frenzy of gowns, tuxedos, corsages, and, at times, yes, awkward couple-y poses. The Prom is one of my favorite springtime traditions, even though I haven’t attended one in nearly 30 years.  

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Rural Kentucky – not quite Appalachia, but “Horse Country” Kentucky – where bluegrass thrives on hilltops as far as you can see and where my high school prom took place in a former oil tycoon’s stately mansion, now referred to as Spindletop Hall.  

The Prom was a really big deal at my high school. Wasn’t it at yours?  

But – WOW – none of us in the middle-aged category or older can compete with the even bigger deal The Prom has become in recent years. There’s so much build-up now: the videos of the wacky invitations to The Prom and the photos of shopping for the gown – the high school version of “She said YES to the dress!” Back in the ‘80s, we were lucky to get a hand-scrawled note stuffed inside our locker as our invitation and prom dresses were sometimes hand-me-downs. Even a decade after my own high school days, my sister wore her Maid of Honor dress recycled from my wedding to her Senior Prom in the Spring of ‘99. Luckily, she looked lovely in seafoam green! 

As I flip through all the fun and colorful prom photos every Spring on Facebook, I always take a stroll down my own Memory Lane. (I mean, don’t you?) Those recollections often take me to my sophomore year when I attended the Junior-Senior Prom with one of my first boyfriends. One year older than me, his name was Jim, and he was an identical twin. People often got Jim and his brother Bob confused, so they referred to both of them as “Jim-Bob” to avoid choosing the wrong name. My own stepfather called them this since he could never tell the young men apart. 

Even before we went to the Spring of ’89 Prom together, Jim asked me on my first official date. I was 16 at the time. My mother was protective and hesitant to let me go. After all, I was her only daughter, and a typically sassy teenager, but a good, clean kid overall. So, she eventually caved and agreed to it. Next thing I knew, I was headed to Lexington, about 20 miles away, for a night at the movies. My first real date ever. I wish I could remember what movie, but since I never got to see it, that detail escapes me now. It could have been “Say Anything” or maybe “Field of Dreams” – two true classics from early 1989…

Whatever the flick, we were double-dating with another young couple from Bourbon County High School (yes, that really was the name of my high school.) Bill, the other guy, was driving. At dusk, we were taking backroads into the city. If you’ve ever been to Central Kentucky, you know that these roads are windy, twisty-turvy, narrow, and bordered by endless miles of plank horse farm fences. And behind those fences live actual horses. The kind that occasionally jump those fences. 

You might be putting the pieces together about what happened the evening of My First Date. Two teenaged couples. One car. Curvy backroads. And, you guessed it, a horse that jumped the fence.  

Boyfriend and I were in the backseat. When the horse’s head went through the windshield, we ducked as the glass shards flew our way. Amazingly, none of us were hurt, not even the girl in the front passenger’s seat, although the horse’s head came just inches from her own. Somehow, Bill as the driver had effectively slammed on the brakes and controlled the car enough to avoid diving into the deep ditch or crossing over into the other lane. And the biggest miracle was the horse itself. Only his head made impact with the car through the windshield, and he pranced away with a few scratches. Eventually, his owners wrangled him back into the safety of his fenced, calm bluegrass pasture.  

After State Police arrived, checked everyone out, and took a report, they sent all of us back home. No movie. No buttered popcorn to romantically share out of one bucket. No first real date for me 

What relevance does this 30-year old story possibly have to life in 2019 

We face many firsts in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the first time we meet someone or the first time we do something or the first time our kids experience something new. Thinking of memorable first-time events in recent years, there was the first time I became the mother of a teenager, the first time I watched my younger daughter score a soccer goal (in fact, she had a hat trick during that game!), the first time I posted a blog here at iamyourmom.com, and the first time I parasailed, only a month ago. Looking forward and God willing, there will be countless more firsts for both you and me. I can only imagine how fantastic and emotional they will be. I often think about when The Precious Pair will graduate, leave for college, get married, and have children of their own. Yikes, Life! Please slow down the milestones, would you?    

Yet one thing is truer than true. Things have gone wrong. Things do go wrong. Things will go wrong.  That’s what’s interesting about life and growth. Without the curves and obstacles and busted windshields, we aren’t challenged. We don’t gain the same kind of experience and wisdom when things go perfectly. So, we must learn to live with the things that go wrong. Learn to welcome them into your day like the hidden favors and lessons they are. Learn to recognize all the first times that go awry as the true gifts of second chances they become.  

My next opportunity to go on a date with my first love Jim was The Prom, where this blog began. Since he and I had endured together the strange collision with the horse, we were as happy and cute and carefree as ever, crossing arm-in-arm over the threshold of the building pictured above.   

There’s a first time for everything to go wrong
Luckily, that’s often followed by a second chance for things to go quite beautifully.  

Feeling nostalgic,
Meesh