Conversations from the Top of My Heart

The other night in the car, my girls and I were talking about friendship. I explained how I love my Best Friends for different reasons and in different ways. They asked for examples.

“Well, I love Ms. R. because she is fun and funny to be around; Ms. L#1 because I trust her like crazy; and Ms. L#2 because of all the special times we shared when she lived next door and since. Oh, and Ms. K because she’s always honest with me and gives the best advice!”

Talking about this topic gave me a rush of giddiness. Thankfully, I have groups of friends from several areas and times of my life. Besides the local besties I have lovingly described, I have my middle school/high school and college connections plus my coworkers, whom I see the most of any friends. I’m even spending this Valentine’s Day with a trio from the latter group. We’re going out for a five-course beer dinner. Cheers to all my Galentines!

However you feel about Valentine’s Day, you must admit it does get you thinking about love and what it looks like for you. Oh, and candy. How can you avoid noticing, craving, and scarfing down candy at this time of year?

This question brings me to the news of Conversation Hearts. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, they aren’t a thing this year. If you bought a bag, I hate to tell you they’re from last year’s batch. The company that makes them went out of business. Yes, sad. But word has it they will be back next year in full force, thanks to a new manufacturer.

In honor of Conversation Hearts – a favorite from my childhood – I have created my own make-believe handful of them to represent different types of love that I’ve either experienced myself or have witnessed closely. Picture with me for a few minutes these tiny chalky candies, imprinted with the sayings and in the signature colors I mention, as sweet symbols of the deepest emotion possible…

“YOU ROCK” – Pink: Friend Love
Reliable and strong and endlessly fun. I’ll start here since I spoke about this love above. Life is sweetened by these people in our lives. They know us best, yet still want to hang around with us. By the time we’re middle-aged, we’ve known many of them for decades. If we’re lucky, we’ve met and made newer ones in our adult lives more recently. That old Girl Scout tune tells us friends represent silver and gold, not sugar candy. If the song were true, imagine your friends as valuable metal coins, clanking around in your pockets, a treasure trove of support always within your reach. My heart feels the reassuring pull of full pockets, every day. #blessed

“YOU’RE MINE” – Orange: Family Love
Pure and true and natural. It’s the love that’s gifted to us from Day One. Yet even with a choice, I’d pick mine again and again. At two years old, my parents divorced so I grew up in two loving families, including a big brother and a little sister. Plus three stepsisters. As a young adult, I gained two more brothers and another sister through my marriage. My multiple siblings have spouses and kids of their own, which means I get to enjoy the fun-filled, no pressure role of “Auntie.” In this seat at the family table, it’s a blast to watch the newer parents growing and learning through the joys, rewards, challenges, and – yep, you guessed it – the boundless love they have with their beautiful children, my nieces and nephews.

Deepest in my heart, of course, will always be The Precious Pair, my daughters. Our bond amazes and surprises me daily with its strength, understanding, and grace. I can be my truest self, both my best and not my best, with these two lovely humans.

“YOU’RE COOL” – White: New Love 
Fresh and crisp and squeaky clean. That’s New Love. When you start at square one with someone, there are so many unknowns, and that’s the electric energy that fuels it! I enjoy watching New Love in motion among the middle schoolers in my life. You can sense it from several rooms away, when a small group of teens huddles in your house. Contagious giggling, texting bells going off left and right — you can hear New Love more than the other types. And it’s chaotic, distracting, and exciting, no matter what age you are when you find it.

“ONLY YOU” – Yellow: Enduring Love 
Grounded and trusting and becoming more rare. These are the couples who have been good, patient, and loyal to one another over the long term. They are the ones who inspire the rest of us. If I’m speaking of you, sit back and be recognized for your commitment. My dad and stepmom qualify in this prestigious category of endurance, celebrating 43 years of marriage in 2019. To all who identify with this type of love, congratulations on both your history and your future together.

“SOUL MATE” – Green: Rekindled Love
A lot like New Love while also familiar and comfortable. You may feel as if you’re home again, but in a mysterious space you don’t know yet. It’s a fondness that lives on from another chapter in your life. Somehow things didn’t come together the first time around; most likely due to bad timing. Then Destiny will do something ridiculous and bring it right back to you. It’s Life’s Best Class Reunion, with only two of you there. It’s a dormant sprout in your heart that explodes into a patch of wildflowers overnight. Unruly and unexpected, yet as the seasons intended.

My mom and stepdad were high school sweethearts who married when I was ten (and are still married 35 years later!), so they reunited long before social media. Today, it’s the Facebook re-connections we all hear about. They are special stories, for sure.

“BFF” – Blue: Self Love
It’s the hardest kind to achieve, yet essential to all the other types. There are many ways to show care and respect for yourself. It could be changing your circumstances or forgiving yourself for mistakes or simply doing more of what makes you happy. For me recently, it’s massages, pedicures, facials, naps, reading, lots of music, road trips, time with friends and family, and this blog project. If you’re not feeling love for yourself, then focus on finding it. Don’t quit until you find it. Take a few cues from Friend Love. And if you need a boost in the right direction, think about the final type of candy in my dish…

“FOREVER” – Purple: God’s Love
It’s by far the most personal type of love and impossible for me to define. I don’t  know how you will see it, hear it, or feel it. I don’t always recognize it for myself, and I don’t pause to honor it often enough. Yet I do know this Love reigns.

To leave you with a love-induced laugh, I’ll tell you about last Sunday when the oldest daughter and I were sitting on the couch, listening to music. As Stevie Wonder serenaded us, she sparked a conversation I’ll never forget about the phrase “from the bottom of your heart.”

“Why do we say that anyway? I mean, isn’t it crusty down there, like you’re scraping the bottom of a dish? I’m going to start saying ‘from the top of my heart’ – it’s fresh up there.”

I only wish I could claim that material as my own!

I hope you all are feeling much love in your lives right now, across the candy heart spectrum. Whatever you do, be sure to speak your love often to your sources, right from the top of your heart and not only when the calendar tells you it’s time.

XOXOXO,
Meesh

Tales from the 4th Grade Science Fair

“Can I do the science fair?”

I’ve heard this question annually for as long as I’ve had a child in grade school. Some years they’ve forgotten about it as soon as they’ve asked, or they’ve changed their minds  before we turn in the form. But several of these years they’ve proceeded with a project. That was the case this time around with the youngest child. As The Hopeless Creative, I don’t really vibe with science, yet I supported the decision.

She promptly recruited a dear friend as a partner, and they became immersed in the biggest decision of the process – The Topic. In the past, we’ve grown grass with Sprite, kept ice frozen in tiny coats of foil and felt, and tested which dog treat is best with all the neighborhood canines. That last one was my favorite, titled “Barkalicious,” and the dogs voted for the peanut butter treat. Smart puppies. PB is a gift to us all, human or beast.

This year it seemed we had used up all the best ideas, until “Just Rust!” evolved from a science experiment book. “Yes, we want to make our own rust,” they said.

Partner, Check!
Topic, Check!

Those major steps led to the scientific process, but not before a trip to Hobby Lobby for the essential display board and materials. I’m not exaggerating when I say we spent 30 minutes in the sticker aisle alone. After all, it was a tough challenge — how do you visually and creatively represent the process of purposefully making your own rust? They explored several concepts. They wanted a mascot.

A raccoon? A tool box? A robot? Yes, a robot would be the perfect spokesperson. And he should have a name. Probably Rusty. Yet, out of 1 million choices, there were no robot stickers?!? Not a problem. They would craft Rusty the Robot from shiny foil paper instead – a truly original character.

Back at home, the project came to life. The girls soaked nails in 3 variables: sand, water, and tangy rice vinegar (the type had nothing to do with the science; it was the only kind I had.)

Hypothesis: We believe the vinegar will rust the nails the most, because vinegar has acid and eats away at things.

That seemed like a perfectly reasonable guess to me, so the girls monitored the soaking nails for a week’s time and noted several observations:

The Sand – nothing happened. The nails just sat there undisturbed, much like toes stuck in the beach. No rust.

The Vinegar – it turned a bit gooey as it ate away at the coating of the nails. No rust.

The Water – they noticed the red tinge within hours. Rust! Almost instantly, it seemed.

The Partners panicked briefly over the results since their hypothesis did not pan out, until I explained… “That’s the entire point of an experiment, guys — to test your best guess and get to an answer, even if it’s not what you expected to begin with…” This reassurance generated smiles and sighs of relief.

Woah. I even surprised myself with that advice. The Hopeless Creative was vibing with science!

Regardless of the topic or the stickers on the board, the grade school science fair serves up many priceless lessons. Questioning. Estimating. Testing. Observing. Admitting and Accepting if you were Right or Wrong. All are precious life skills.

I took away some observations of my own from the girls’ simple yet fascinating test. Like those nails, we as people sit and soak in different circumstances, whether we’re lying around peacefully in the sand or we’re in a situation that eats away at us like vinegar or we’re simply underwater.

I’m experiencing all three sensations right now. I’m resting in a season of radical self-care; I’m often sleepless, which is wearing away at my peace; and during many recent days, I’m submerged in demands and decisions, and I start to seep — stress, doubt, exhaustion, all kinds of colors. Like those nails.

When life’s challenges engulf us, we should sit back and observe what’s truly happening, just as intently, enthusiastically, and curiously as 4th grade scientists. We certainly shouldn’t ignore, deny, or feel shame about what’s shaping us, and we must take personal responsibility for what’s breaking us down. Think about those nails in the water specifically. They allowed a natural process to take place within them, and they released the inevitable signs of their experience. They didn’t hide or fight their change. They accepted it and wore it like a red coat of honor. They just rusted, and they endured. So will I. So will you.

The girls did not win the science fair, an outcome that comes with even more life lessons. Despite the letdown, they gained and bonded from the event. Meanwhile, I walked away with a newfound appreciation for the science fair to replace my former dread. We will see if I’m still appreciating it by this time next year or if I’m back to hiding the flyer in the recycling bin. (I only did that once.)

February Made Me Do It

There’s something about February that always feels reassuring to me. All of us made it through shiny-new January with its ultimatums and promises. I mean, who needs that kind of pressure when everyone deals with plenty of it through all the other months of the year?

But February is a blast of fresh, cold air. The second month comes at last and allows us to step back into reality where our goals are simply life goals and not lofty resolutions. It’s exactly why I didn’t set foot in the gym I joined at my office building until today, February 1st. Getting in there any sooner with all the other newbies; well, it felt like jinxing myself. Now, being there among all the usual gym rats; well, it feels like setting myself up for success. The strategy here is blending in, like going to the gym is normal for me.

Along these same lines, I’ve chosen this normal day of February 1st to launch this blog. In the past, I’ve thought about launching it on my birthday or on New Year’s Day or on some other day of significance. It never happened. Truth be told, I’ve owned this URL – iamnotyourmom.com – for enough years to have lost count. I pay the fee to renew it every year and when the receipt shows up, I get the annual pang of guilt and failure. “I need to start that. Someday maybe.” What has been in my way, you ask?…Well, it’s been Life as I’ve known it for a while.

That’s what makes this February even more reassuring. The fact is I’ve made it to this point, a full 6 months after I made some of my biggest, most life-changing decisions so far. Last July, I was forty-five years into my story, and I went and dumped the story on its head. It happened all in a moment of divine clarity I will never be able to explain to anyone, but maybe God himself. He sent the moment to me in the first place, so he might get bored hearing about it again. But like a loving parent does, he will listen and nod enthusiastically as I re-tell it.

…Why “iamnotyourmom.com”? This statement means something to me. You can ask people I know, especially at work, and they’ll tell you I speak it out loud on a regular basis. I repeat it silently inside my head even more often. It’s a mantra that comes to me anytime someone assumes I want to mother them because I happen to be a mother.  Yet there are only TWO people on this planet who can claim me as their Mom and, vice versa, there are only TWO people on this planet I can claim as my children. As for the rest of you – no offense, but no, thank you. I do not want to act like, resemble, pretend to be, or serve as a substitute for your Mom. I am busy being that to The Precious Pair. And I’m busy serving in countless other roles of value: daughter, sister, auntie, niece, cousin, friend, neighbor, classmate, coworker, supervisor, mentor, committee member, ambassador, acquaintance, coffee drinker, wine drinker, gin drinker, stranger who smiles at you at the grocery store, all-around lover of life…

Yes, despite the past 6 months, I remain loyally in that last category.

That’s why I’m desperate to finally introduce you to this project of mine. There are so many things I have to say in the spirit of love, not from a motherly perspective, but from a “middle-aged person who has developed a layer of wisdom, yet has tons more to learn and wonder about” perspective. If you know me at all, you know I love to ask questions. I will drive you crazy with questions, until you’re exhausted answering them. But I do so unapologetically. That’s how I learn. That’s how everyone learns. Let’s start asking some questions together, tough big ones and silly little ones. Both will be fun.

This is not a Mommy blog with recipes and crafts. Those are great and I follow several. This is a life blog written by someone who happens to be a “Mommy” with many other shades and sides; some quite simple and others waaaayyyy more complicated. One of my new favorite Pinterest quotes is “I have a happy personality with a heavy soul. Sometimes, it gets weird.” I couldn’t describe myself any better.

So, welcome to Me. And welcome to You. I’m glad you peeked in to see what this is all about, even when I’m not yet sure myself. Maybe I’ll figure it out by the end of reassuring, no-pressure February. Or at least by the time I pay the fee for this web address again – next time with zero guilt! Or by the time I become a genuine gym rat.

One thing I do know for sure: I am not your mom*.

 

*Hey, you two! You know who you are. Thank you for being my sweet, strong, and beautiful exceptions to this brand. This blog is an old idea of mine powered by a brand-new effort, and it’s fully dedicated to both of you.