Crisis Averted

Our family recently set off on an adventure of sorts, renting out our newer house on 2 acres in suburbia, and moving to a 70 year old house in the heart of an historic old town.

The move came with some trade offs, like no more cable television and downsizing to one car, in return for being closer to family and living in our ideal small town setting, that allowed us to walk to the playground, post office and ice cream stand.

This was an exciting change for my husband and I, but I wasn’t as confident about how my 2 and 4 year old kids would react. We had moved before, but they were infants then, and didn’t even seem to notice since the crib and milk supply didn’t change with the relocation.

Growing up, I loved living in the same house until I went to college, but this would be the 5th place my 4 year old had lived in her few years of life. We’d been in the last house for 2 years, so I braced myself for the immense guilt I would feel for uprooting her yet a fifth time.

I started talking about the new house a month before we moved and had them go for a pre-move-in visit. We reassured them that all our stuff was coming with us and answered strange little people questions about how we would move the carpets, sinks and walls. We included them in packing activities and talked about all the new house perks, like being closer to Grammy and Grampy, having a separate play room, and my daughter attending preschool down the street for the first time (something she was living for).

On the day we moved in, the kids loved running around and exploring the new house, unpacking toys they had not seen in weeks, and setting up their rooms. Two nights passed with smooth sailing. I penciled in breathing a sigh of relief for the following day.

On night three my husband came into my daughter’s room where I was tucking her in to tell me my son had just asked to go to the old house. He even repeated it in my son’s two year old speak to really drag me down in the depths of sadness with him: “Want to go old house”.

Latching onto this, my daughter said she was ‘homesick’ and started to cry. Before long she was sobbing with her main vocalized concern being that she liked the color of our old house (yellow) better than our new house (brick).

My mind instantly skipped ahead to the thousands of dollars worth of therapy my kids would need for being ripped out of their home for our small town whim. I imagined the sleepless nights ahead with both children inconsolable and missing their old rooms. I started a countdown to a day in the not too distant future, when both kids would set off with their tiny bandana knapsacks hitchhiking for our old house and cutting all ties with their serial mover parents.

In reality, both kids were asleep within minutes and the house was quiet. Crisis averted.

The next morning everyone resumed their activities and the kids continued to explore and enjoy the old house and old town that were new to us.

Apparently no adventure is complete without a side of drama, and most of the time fall out from that drama is nowhere near as bad as my over active imagination and the bedtime tears of two toddlers would have me believe.

Bio: Susan helps other bloggers get featured on the sites they aspire to, on her blog resource site Beyond Your Blog. Pecked To Death By Chickens is Susan’s humor blog, though occasionally she’ll author a poignant post revealing her soft underbelly (a euphemism AND a literal description). Features on sites like BlogHer, Blunt Moms, BonBon Break, In The Powder Room and of course Scary Mommy, help feed her attention seeking behavior. She still hasn’t figured out what Instagram is, so check her out on Facebook and Twitter instead.

A wizard once told me

ruby slippersThe wizard of Oz once told me I could be a successful writer some day. Perhaps I should explain.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling lost, I go to a psychic, palm-reader, tarot card reader or some other kind of wizard behind a green curtain to help me with perspective. No judging, please, its not like I change my life based on what they say. Much.

I will confess that possibly I have given these people too much power over the direction of my life but in my defense, at those times my internal compass was totally whacked out and spinning like a top.

Besides, their guidance has often been very good. It was a psychic, who is a wizard in Australia (I swear I am not making this up), who told me over the phone that if I looked at my employer’s intranet I would see a job waiting for me in New York. I looked the next day and he was right and I ended up in New York. He had actually advised me to chuck in the corporate job altogether because I could create a successful career as a writer if I wanted. It has taken me a few years to take his advice, but I’m hoping it might still come true.

Lately the future has yawned out in front of me like some huge, terrifying, deep abyss. But today, I’m feeling pretty good: joyful, actually, and excited about the possibilities that lie before me.

I’m concentrating on the excitement of my upcoming trip to the States and not all the unknowns after that: What will I do when I come back to Oz with no job, no home? Where will I go? There is none of that. I’m thinking, “This is awesome, I’m flying free, I’m finding my voice, I feel fresh, clean, new and pregnant with hope (lower case ‘h’, people, i.e. the emotion, not a baby called Hope).”

So while the itch is there to see a good psychic again, I’m holding off because I feel like its time to take full responsibility for my own direction, like Dorothy who found the power to get home was with her all along, and not with the Wizard of Oz.

Also, the last psychic I saw was not a great experience. My friend Lindsey in San Francisco recommended a certain psychic highly because her reading had been excellent. However between bites of pancakes at a local diner she also told me the psychic said she was going to be single for the rest of her life. It was almost enough for me to stand up, walk down to the Golden Gate Bridge and throw myself off in her honor.

However she genuinely seemed okay with the psychic’s insight and said she had long suspected that would be the case. I had taken the psychic’s number gingerly, not sure if I would want to hear such brutal news. Fortunately for me, and whomever fetches jumpers from the GG Bridge, the psychic told me I would meet someone by the time I was 37, which was the only saving grace in amongst a whole heap of other horrid predictions.

She started off base right away by saying repeatedly, “You are a very loud, stubborn, opinionated and persuasive person.” I was kind of stunned in to silence because except for the stubborn bit, this sounded absolutely nothing like me.

I sat on the window seat in my apartment dumbfounded while she told me over the phone that I would never live in Australia again (I’d just like to remind folks that I’m living in Australia right now), my mother was going to suffer some terrible illness (my mum is well, thank you) and that I should stick with the day job because it suited me and there was no money in a career as a writer for me (oh, please God, say it aint true).

I’ve pretty much dismissed everything she said as a dash of cray cray, since that works much better for me. Except the getting shacked up with someone by the time I’m 37, that bit will be totally true.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust psychics, wizards or any other kind of smoke signal sender anymore. And maybe I’m talking a little tongue in cheek here, which lets face it is inarticulate and produces a tad too much spittle, but wipe your faces off people because usually psychics can provide a large source of hope for me (It goes without saying I’m not counting the last one).

They give me a hang-glider to cling to while I soar over the chasm of the unknown. Everything is going to be okay, they (usually) assure me. I feel heard and deeply understood in the space of an hour and that’s a pretty powerful gift.

The thing is, that now I’m writing regularly and getting my blog out there, I think these acts are giving me the same thing. Maybe I don’t need to look to others to provide direction anymore, or at least not right now anyway. Don’t get me wrong, a good recommendation never goes astray and I might need one when the abyss seems deeper and darker some day.

Besides, while Dorothy had the power to get home with her the whole time, it was those sparkly red shoes that did it and a witch gave her those. So, maybe if you have one to recommend, send me the details of witch. A white one this time please, with good taste in shoes.

Bio: Narelle Hill writes fiction and creative non-fiction and is the author of personal blog Life in the Chrysalis where she explores change, transitions and life as a thirty something single woman. Read more at Chrysalis Emergent and on Facebook.  

Why I stayed and why I left

I was 16 and he was the first boy to ever show any real interest in me. I was flattered and excited. Even though we were in the same high school and had a class or two together, we never really talked much until the night of a mutual friend’s sweet sixteesundress-336590_1280n party.

The party was held at a local hall that hosted weddings and proms. My mom had taken me shopping for a dress and I found a wonderful red velour dress that made me feel special. We couldn’t believe our luck when we noticed the price tag, $9.99, which was a bargain even in the 70s.

It didn’t take long for him to approach me. He complimented me and told me how pretty I looked. After that, nothing else really mattered because it was the first time a guy other than my dad had said that to me.

We starting dating the following Monday.

At first, it was fun. We met between classes and held hands in the hall. He lived in the neighborhood behind the school so sometimes I’d go home with him to hang out. His family was nice; his dad was a cop and his mom was a homemaker. He had two younger brothers, the middle one was a bit of pain but the younger one was sweet.

He had recently turned 16 and had his own car. We went to the movies and to dinner, it was perfect.

And then things began to change.

He started saying and doing things that seemed out of character. He was a bit more emotional about school, friends and us. He was becoming more possessive of my time and more critical of my friends.

We were beginning to look into colleges and he was adamant that we go to the same school. The only problem was that I was looking at schools in upstate New York and he was planning on staying home – he wanted to be a cop just like his dad.

One afternoon, we were in his basement hanging out and I said something that upset him. I think it had something to do with going away to school but I can’t remember. What I do remember is what happened next.

He began to cry and hit himself with his fist. He then got up and banged his head on the pole in the basement. He walked over to a table across the room, picked up a baseball mitt and threw it in my direction.

I was stunned. I did everything I could to calm him down. The only thing that worked was promising him that I would consider staying home for college.

Over the next several months, he became more possessive and more adamant about me staying home for college.

When I got a job at the local mall he yelled that it would ruin everything because it would take time away from us. I told him that I wouldn’t let that happen and we continued to date.

I knew my parents weren’t thrilled with I’m but, generally, they kept quiet about their opinion about him.

Finally, after about a year of dating, I had had enough. I had lost contact with my friends and I knew that I wanted to go away to college so I broke it off with him.

He was at my house and I told him that I didn’t think we should see each other anymore. He got angry, stood up and yelled at me and called me names. I left the room and told my mom that I needed her help.

Together, we tried to calm him down all the while moving him towards the door. After he left, we both knew that we had dodged a bullet because if my dad had been home chances are someone would’ve ended up in jail and most likely it would’ve been my dad.

A few days later, we were taking the SAT exam. He approached me after the test and asked if we could talk. I’m not sure why I agreed to follow him but we went behind the gym for some privacy.

He asked me why I had broken up with him. When I told him that I thought we had different goals, he looked at me, smirked and spit in my face.

That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

My 16-year-old boyfriend never physically abused me – most of the time he physically abused himself. But there was abuse – emotional abuse. And who knows if that would’ve escalated.

Despite this experience, I’ve never considered myself a victim or survivor of domestic abuse. I usually don’t think of it much at all.

Until the Ray and Janay Rice story made the news and people started asking the question, why women stay.

So I’ve asked myself, why did I stay with him as long as I did and, at the age of 16, how did I have the fortitude to leave.

I stayed because I was 16. Because I wanted a boyfriend and because I thought I could help him.

I left because I could.

Because I had the support of my friends and family.

But most importantly because I had the confidence – even though at 16 and now at 51 I don’t always see – to believe in me.

Hopefully, the publicity that has come from the Ray Rice situation will help others believe in themselves too.

Bio: Tammy DeMel’s 30-year career in public relations has allowed her to live out some of her childhood dreams. She has worn the Miss America crown, walked the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and spent two days with a former president. Now, this working mom, wife and mother of a teenage boy is trying her hand at another childhood dream, writing. She has started a blog and can be found sharing her stories at www.coveringthegray.com. Though she’s only been blogging for a few months, her posts have been featured in the blogosphere on such sites as BlogHer, Blunt Moms, Midlife Boulevard, and Better After 50.

We Are Women

pohlkotte pressThe World will try to contain us.

They will assign words to our fluid beings.
Our story – if we women let them,
will be defined in extremes.

That we are:
too much, or too little
too fat, or too thin
too bossy, or too submissive
too dumb, or too smart for our own good.

But you – my daughter, my sisters, my friends –
you hold within you the power of the seasons.
Your spirit is large enough to hold each one.

Just as the sun is not too bright,
or the ocean too deep,
nor is sister moon too soft with her silver light.

For it is She that causes this earth to spin.
She sends those tides to extend and retract from the shore.
The crops to rise, the fruit to fall –

It is her full embodiment of self
that allows her quiet dominion over us all.

So too, it is never your fault to be fully who you are.

We need not look to others
to define, defend, or to shape us into their liking.
We need not pretend.

You are allowed to come in like thunder,
to whisper softly as the breeze.
To change your mind.

Shed yourselves of the leaves
that no longer bear your markings,
Step out of the golden husks at your feet –

Stand.
Ready to bloom again.

We women belong to contradiction.

Our bodies start at the curve of our thighs
Winding its way along our thin spins
Before it falls curled into our tiny smiles.

We are living question marks.

Don’t let anyone outside of your skin
tell you what its worth
to be alive within it.

For this world is forever wide.

But we women – when we stretch out our arms,
Chests thrown back and hearts exposed
can circle it.

Care for it
with an innate wisdom that allows us
to grow life within our darkness.

Nurturing ourselves; and always each other
with a love that is
womb deep.

We are infinite.
We are finite.
Flawed and divine.

Woven together by dust and stars.

We need no standards.
No extremes.
We need no definition.

We are – Women.

Bio: Named one of BlogHer Voices of the Year, published author and poet, Tara Pohlkotte is a writer, mother of two sweet souls, and lover of simple beauty. You can read more of her work on her blog or connect on her Facebook Page

 

The Gift Of Nothing

CURIOUS GEORGEMy son and I were watching ‘Curious George’ one morning when I was struck by something that the Man in the Yellow Hat uttered. He was in the process of teaching George about the concept of numbers when he realized that, though George had successfully learnt so many numbers, he had no idea what ‘zero’ meant. The Man in the Yellow Hat said—

“I thought I was teaching you everything. I forgot ‘nothing'”.

That was an epiphany for me. Parents spend so much time, effort and material resources to teach their children every conceivable lesson, whether it’s to equip them academically or for practicality’s sake. But then I began to wonder how many parents really do take the time to teach the concept of ‘nothingness’ in its different facets? I am not referring to the mere abstract idea of non-existence but instead am more concerned with the concept of being able to live with, and appreciate ‘nothingness’ in daily life, in the mundane.
Have we been taught how to live with very little, or no possessions, for instance? In this modern age when most of us are so used to having, so used to accumulating way beyond what we need, have we considered living a much simpler life? Are we prepared to cope with ‘having nothing’? With the younger generations, especially in the more developed societies, I’ve observed a remarkable sense of entitlement and insatiability that overwhelm and puzzle me at times. I often ask myself how such individuals cope when they don’t get what they want and think they deserve. I wonder if they were ever socialized either by their parents, or some other significant other in their lives, to be accepting of defeat, of being empty handed and still be able to graciously move on. Are we teaching our children enough about ‘not having’ or has it been all about ‘something’, ‘wanting’, ‘possessing’? Do our children know how to give and let go, or do they only know how to open their arms when they receive?

Do we teach our children about the value of silence, saying nothing, not speaking? We often hear about encouraging speech and expression. We reward, and value assertion. We like making our presence known by speaking out and some equate power or leverage with how much they say and how loudly they can say it. But wisdom tells us that there is also much power in silence. Sometimes, all we need is a pause, a break in the cacophony that surrounds us, to afford us more clarity. Sometimes silence also says more than words and sends an even more powerful message. And sometimes we need to silence ourselves to hear another person’s truth and in the process, validate their spirit. It is in that kind of empowering silence that we find authentic power for ourselves.

Do we teach our children about the value of doing nothing, being still? I know that sounds contrary to the emphasis most cultures place on productivity. However, we all know that balance is of utmost importance. I am just at a loss sometimes when I watch our children perpetually jumping from one activity to the next. I see families who are horribly beyond exhaustion and yet still flood every hour of their days with countless activities and social engagements as if it were some incurable compulsion. Do we really need all that? Do our children really, genuinely thrive in such hectic environments? Are all these activities and the stresses that go with having to cram all these demands into a child’s daily schedule really nourishing them, or are we breeding toxicity? I am not proposing that children be idle and confined at home. I am merely suggesting that we keep these things in check and as the adult, it is our responsibility to ensure that our young ones are not drowning in such a fast-paced life that they no longer know what it means to be still. We cannot lose sight of our responsibility to also teach the value of slowing down. Anything that goes too fast, wears out much quickly as well. And the faster we go, the less likely we are able to see the details in things and appreciate that which surrounds us.

Finally, are we teaching our children enough about the value of being alone, having nobody else around but themselves? Yes, we teach our children about friendships, being kind, being social and pleasant towards others. We put emphasis on the value of getting along, forging alliances, and building relationships. But what about one’s relationship to one’s self? I believe that there is nothing greater or more important than that. Each of us needs to be equipped with confronting our own selves. Believing that someone else will always be there for or around us is an illusion. Believing that in every second and ultimately, in the end, we can really only count on our selves to be there with us, is clarity.

There is much richness to be gained in nothingness. Contrary to the despair and general negativity often times associated with it, I choose to believe that nothingness is replete with possibilities. You just need to have the courage to step into it.

Bio:  Joy Page Manuel is a blogger, stay-at-home mom and full-time over-analyzer. She was born and raised in the Philippines, but is now living in Tennessee. She served as professor of Sociology in university for 7 years prior to her 2004 migration to the U.S. In that past life, she was also a contributing author to three academic publications in the Philippines. Her blog was voted VoiceBoks Top Mom Blog of 2013. She also has several featured member posts at Blogher. Joy writes about all her angst as a mother, migrant and hopeless romantic on her site Catharsis. You can follow her on Facebook , Twitter, and Google+.

(Photo Credit: pbskids.org —- http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/printables/friends.html)

Nicest Things People Have Ever Done for Me

IMG_0029_best_cropheadshotLooking back over my life, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and great friends. A list of some of the nicest things people have ever done for me follows (not necessarily in this order):

The owner of the Stride Rite shoe store in my small town growing up promised to give me a beautiful doll with a blue gown, encased in a plastic dome case, which was on display in the store if I took part in a fashion show that my mom’s women’s club was putting on. (I was six years old, shy and very reluctant to do it; obviously my mom or I had told her about it.). That doll was SO beautiful to me and such a motivator! After the style show was over, she did give it to me. And I never forgot her kind gesture!
My ex-husband, my 18-month old son (at the time) and I lost everything we owned in Hurricane Huge in 1989, and our renter’s insurance wouldn’t pay a cent. My best friend from junior high and high school, Sue, who I hadn’t seen in years, sent us $100. I was an at-home mom, and we were all young and pretty poor then — and it was such an incredibly generous thing for her to do.
My friend Barbara, who’d been in a mother’s group I started when our children were about six months old, had moved away – but after Hurricane Hugo, she sent me a big box of clothes. Since I’d lost every piece of clothing I owned except for the three shorts outfits I packed when we evacuated, I wore those clothes for years afterwards – and always appreciated her kind gesture.
When we were in our early 20’s, and my ex-husband had been laid off from his job quite a while, my sister, J, paid for me to go on an all-day “cruise to nowhere” in Florida with her. I’d never been on any kind of cruise, and we had such fun! We still joke about the foreign staff members saying over and over to us, “You are sisters!!” That extravagant one-day trip was a real spirit lifter and a really generous thing to do. She’s done many other kind and thoughtful things over the years, but that cruise really stands out in my mind.
My ex-boyfriend brought me a bouquet of flowers every week for five years!
My friends Merry Ellen, Cindy and Deb – and my sister, J – were an incredible help to me when I planned and coordinated my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding on a shoestring all by myself. Deb helped me make all the corsages and boutonnieres, and she single-handedly created the bride and bridesmaids’ bouquets as well as gorgeous bouquets for about 25 guest tables; Cindy gave me a million wedding ideas, helped me with planning, and decorated the reception hall to make it look incredibly elegant — and also insisted on attending the reception as a server; and Merry Ellen, as well as my sister, J, drove for a day to get there and spent 15 hours cutting up fruit and preparing food for the reception. They are truly wonderful friends! (To read the details about “How to Have a $30,000 Wedding for Less Than $10,000″ see my ebook and blog post at http://www.budgetweddingsite.com.)
My friend, Mary C., made a phone call about a job opening at her husband’s company and that led to a wonderful job opportunity for me, thanks to her belief in my abilities.
After I broke my foot several years ago and had to have surgery and be in a wheelchair for four months, my friends from work, Mary O. and Nancy, took their half-hour lunch break to drive 30 miles round-trip to my house and deliver a second mattress (from Mary’s couch) for my couch (where I’d been sleeping because it was on the ground floor) so that it was nice and comfy. After four months, they both took another lunch hour and went back to my house to pick it up! Nancy also took me to get a pedicure on the foot that didn’t have a cast on it!
My friend, Joy, who – when we hadn’t know each other that long – made me about 20 pairs of beaded earrings and displayed them on a beautiful Zentangle design she drew and mounted on cardboard. It must’ve taken hours to make everything – and I was blown away by such a generous gift!
Once when my son was about 3 and my ex-husband was in college and I’d had a sinus infection for days that was dragging me down (and didn’t know any babysitters), my friend Kathy picked my son and me up, drove us around on errands and to playgrounds with her daughters for a whole day, giving me much-needed rest. Kathy also washed my hair in her kitchen sink and sat me at the table for hours doing her best to fix my hair after the worst haircut of my life!
My friend Cheryl came over to my house at 3 a.m. when my son was young and I called her in the middle of the night thinking I had appendicitis. Now THAT is a friend. She’s also been my “partner in crime” in several madcap capers over the years.
The women in my mother’s group rented a room at a local restaurant and had a surprise 39th birthday party for me right after my ex-husband left. What a wonderful gift!
The people I worked with at my government job took me out to lunch and all gave me gag gifts right after I finally got a civil service job (after being a contractor for five years). Most people aren’t lucky enough to have those kind of coworkers!
My son and his wife gave me the best physical gift ever on my milestone birthday this year, when I was suffering from a recent breakup with the former boyfriend mentioned above and a severe case of empty nest blues after they moved to another state: a typed booklet, tied with ribbon, titled “Things We Love About Diane.” I laughed and I cried — and that book is so precious that I made a color copy and put it in my safe deposit box!
The wonderful women in my book club gave me an unexpected birthday dinner this year – complete with flowers, gifts and a balloon bouquet. We really livened up that restaurant! They also spent hours helping me make wedding favors for my son’s wedding.
My friend and former business partner (we wrote a book together) Chris was able to sell the business when we were ready to retire from it — which, with my share of the proceeds, enabled me to buy my house. She also recommended me to a friend, which resulted in me getting a job as a corporate trainer in a prestigious local company. She’s an amazing person.

I haven’t mentioned my parents — because I couldn’t begin to count all the kind and generous things they’ve done for me and my son over the years! They’re the best.

I hope that you, too, are lucky enough to have family and friends like mine — and that you appreciate the things they do for you.

Diane’s Bio: Really love writing and blogging: I work as a writer and blog all day as the manager of the internal communications blog at a worldwide organization (where people jokingly call me the blog queen). Then come home and write on my personal blog at night and on weekends, taking time out to do fun things that result in additional blog post material! Thoughts, Tips and Tales is about four months old and I’ve had a lot of fun with it and learned lots of new things. Have also enjoyed reading posts by lots of talented bloggers.  You can find me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Lessons Learned

On the eve of my birthday (actually it’s next weekend, but look at me being all ahead of schedule) I thought it would be fun to enumerate a lesson I have learned for each of my years on this here planet. I am old, so it’s kind of a long list.

These are in no particular order – some are clearly more important than others.

Some seem unimportant, but are quite profound, I swear. Bear with me.

1.  It takes a lot less energy to be nice than it does to pick a fight.
2.  Karma is real. What you put out there comes back to you. Maybe not right this second, but eventually.
3.  Love isn’t like a pie with a finite amount to be divided up. It’s more like that thing where you mix baking soda and vinegar and it explodes all over everything. I like that.
4.  If there isn’t a price tag showing, you probably can’t afford it.
5.  Sometimes gravity is a pain in the ass.
6.  You never regret getting off your butt to go for a walk or partake of some sort of physical activity. It still sucks to start.
7.  Sleeping in is the best thing ever.
8.  That whole thing about how you aren’t any good to anyone else until you take care of yourself – put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying to save anyone else – totally true.
9.  You could probably watch less TV and still totally function in society.
10.  Climate change is totally real.
11.  Also dinosaurs.
12.  No one will ever love you like your mother.
13.  No one will ever drive you crazy quite like your mother either. I say this as a mother who is sure to be driving her children crazy for quite some time.
14.  Just because it’s scary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Sometimes it means you must.
15.  Smart doesn’t get you anywhere unless you do something with it.
16.  None of us are ever going to look like the women in the magazines. But no matter how much I know it is fake and totally unattainable, a little piece of me is kind of disappointed.
17.  The days are long, but the years are short.
18.  If you want a red light (so you can check your phone or adjust your clothes or open your drink) you absolutely will not get one.
19.  Don’t ever let a printer know you are in a hurry, it stresses them out and causes them to run out of ink and eat paper.
20.  Money can’t buy happiness, but it can pay a cleaning lady and that’s almost the same thing.
21.  You can probably leave the house without a phone and survive for hours and hours. We used to do it all the time. But it still makes me super nervous.
22.  The best way to get people to give you the benefit of the doubt is to do the right thing as often as you possibly can.
23.  Wanting something doesn’t mean the universe owes it to you.
24.  Life is not fair. Keeping score is bound to make that even more upsetting.
25.  The silent treatment is the least effective way to resolve a conflict.
26.  Avoiding the conflict is also a terrible idea. Gotta work on that one.
27.  The best way to know if you should trust someone is to trust them.
28.  If someone shows you you can’t trust them, you should believe it.
29.  It is insanity to be angry with someone for behaving exactly the way you expect them to. I do not for a second pretend that it is easy to stop.
30.  The fact that there is no scientific consensus on what human beings should eat is annoying.
31.  Also, can we get some agreement on whether coffee is or is not bad for me? I won’t stop – but at least I’d know.
32.  Your dog loves you more than most people ever will.
33.  Fish are not pets. Fish are moving furniture.
34.  Rodents do not belong in homes. Same for snakes and lizards. Just, no.
35.  The realization that I cannot read every book, see every movie, watch every TV show, and know everything that is going on still bothers me.
36.  My experience (and yours) is such a minuscule piece of what is going on in the world at any given moment in time that if I try to comprehend it it makes my head hurt.
37.  I often wonder whether my individual experience of “blue” or “red” is the same as other people. Or if we see them completely differently and just agree on the names.
38.  The book is always better than the movie.
39.  The idea that an 18 year old got to decide what my future career would be is crazy. Yes, she was me, but she had no idea what she was doing.
40.  The laundry will never be done, the sooner you face that fact, the happier your life will be.
41.  Same for dishes.
42.  The best way to get a child’s attention is to get on a work-related conference call.
43.  If you aren’t actually a member of the team, referring to a professional sports team as “we” is weird.
44.  Watching someone you love do something they absolutely love is the best thing ever.
45.  Don’t wait to make the grand gesture, do as many kind and generous things as you can. They add up.
46.  As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Do that.

Update: I realized after posting this that I have actually almost lived a full 47 (!) years – so I must add:

47. After about 18 you will never ever feel in your mind as old as you really are. Your back and feet, yes. But in your mind you will always be younger.

Bio: Kristen, suburban mom of 2, working girl, therapeutic writer. Addictions: Iced Coffee, checking e-mail, texting, hugging my children, yelling at my dog. Where I Write: http://KeepSwimmin.com

In Search of Diversity

When Evan was about three, Sam was holding him as they left a store. Leaving immediately behind them was a little person. “Daddy! Why’s that man so tiny?” Evan asked, loudly, as three-year olds are certain to do.

But Sam wasn’t rattled and neither was the man. Sam offered him a quick grin and a pleading “excuse my child” look and answered Evan’s question: “Well, buddy, everyone’s different. People come in all shapes and sizes.”

A few years later, just after Molly was born, my parents and the boys were visiting us in the hospital. Becoming restless in the tiny room, Max needed a field trip, so my mom brought him to the nursery window so they could peek in on all the brand new babies. It was a full nursery that morning and my mom and Max were noticing all of the beautiful babies…some were teeny tiny, some looked big enough to be three months old. Some had heads sleek and shiny as a cue ball, others had full heads of hair. “Mom Mom!” Max said, pointing, “Look at that baby! His skin looks like chocolate!” My mom looked. And then my mom noticed that, what seemed to be, the baby’s entire extended family was standing next to her, within earshot. Again, the response came easily: “Isn’t he beautiful, Max?” “He sure is, Mom Mom!”

The thing is…kids notice physical differences among us. It’s one of the easiest and most important ways that their new, developing minds make sense of their world. And kids are proud to share with you what they notice, as if they’re aware of something you aren’t. In our experience, the people who have overheard our kids’ less-than-socially-acceptable comments have all been gracious and kind, probably because, if they have children of their own, they’ve been on the other side of that social-inappropriateness once or twice before, too. And we try to respond to our kids’ questions honestly, while modeling appropriate, respectful behavior of our own.

As our kids are getting older, the differences that they’re noticing are more subtle than physical attributes. Partly, this is due to the fact that they are more aware of socially normative behavior and so finding the behavioral outlier seems worthy of mention. They’ll notice, for instance, the boy with autism, the girl with Down Syndrome, the child who can tell imaginative, detailed stories of pretend play yet can’t seem to remember the names of colors.

And I’m okay with this noticing. It gives us an opportunity (or, many opportunities, really) to remind them that we’re all different….our bodies are different and our brains are different and our clothes are different and our families are different, but (almost always, and when it comes to what really matters) our hearts are the same. (We haven’t delved into the topic of homicidal sociopaths. Maybe we’ll never have to. Imagine…)

I think one of our many (countless, endless, crucial) responsibilities as parents is to teach our kids to be compassionate and positive members of society. Members who treat their friends, neighbors, and strangers alike with kindness, understanding, and respect. One of the ways we teach that is to talk to our kids (often, endlessly…) about our differences…and how these differences do more to unite us than to divide us. (We’ve all got our something that makes us feel like we’re tiptoe-ing on the fringe of what it means to be “normal.” And if you don’t think you do, then you just haven’t found what it is yet.)

Our conversations became more important to me as Max found his sparkle. I wanted him to know that he’s allowed to dress as he wants and act as he wants both in our home and out in The World. I wanted him to know that there are plenty of boys in this world who like to wear dresses and who feel “prettiest” when they’re fully accessorized…that there are plenty of boys who are just like him. Just because we haven’t run into any on our playgrounds or seen any in our restaurants…just because we haven’t found them yet, that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.

Our conversations, it seems, are sinking in. Our message of We, Humans of the Earth, Come in All Forms…our reminder that individuals and families can come in different shapes and sizes and colors and degrees of sparkle.

The other day at the pool, Max came swimming up to me faster than he’s ever moved in the water. “Mommy!” he gasped, “I just for the very first time in real life saw one of those families you were talking about!”

“What?” I asked, at a complete loss as to what he was referring. I looked around but just saw the typical crowd for a weekday morning at our pool: a bunch of moms with kids, a few dads, and the teenaged lifeguards.

He tried not to point. “Over there, coming through the gate! It’s a two-mommy family!”

I glanced over.

And saw two moms and four or five kids…friends…who had clearly planned to meet up for a pool play date.

Sometimes it’s hard to teach diversity in a small town. But seek and you can find….sort of.
Sarah’s Bio: I’m a mom of three who spends my days coloring, dancing, playing with Legos, and taking pictures of my gorgeous kiddos and my nights writing to get all these words out of my head.  I blog at Live, Laugh, and Learn.  I tweet at @skh4102.  I filter my photos at @sarah.livelaughlearn.

Autumn Vigil

022_(2)Today I am packing up the summer box. It is a clear, plastic box that neatly slides into the top of our Ikea wardrobe. The wardrobe, like the modular contents within it and the carefully curated scarves and sweaters that have just been released from the prison of the plastic box (which has been the autumn and winter box for the last nine months) is fresh and clean and tidy as the day my husband assembled it. We moved here only two years ago, in spring. If spring is the season of not yet opened buds and just greening trees, autumn is its own new beginning: school and cooler winds bring people back to the city, to school, to local pubs and restaurants, to their boxes filled with corduroys and sweatshirts and tweeds.

I am a Los Angeles transplant. To me, New York City will always be the cinematic Woody Allen universe of bright yellows and reds in fall and rainy days in front of old movie houses on side streets downtown. It will always be my freshman year at Columbia, and the first time I had to wear a cable knit sweater. It is football season and short days and bright candles and a tinge of homesickness and the thrill of the avenues of New York City lighting up one by one as the trees and lamp posts are trimmed with bright white bulbs. It is midterms and finals and trains to friends’ houses upstate and envying rich kids’ sleek J. Crew boots and attending a capella holiday concerts in Furnald Hall.

But this autumn does not beckon in the way that it always has before. For many people, autumn’s chill and fading light, is a metaphor for death. Poets call upon the season to symbolize nameless specters lurking in their minds; it is a descending darkness that represents our fears, both named and impossible to name.

My mother is sick. I cannot live in denial anymore.

She has been sick for a while now, if dementia constitutes an illness. She suffered a stroke at only 68 years of age; a bleed that was most likely caused by a drug that ought never to have been prescribed. It happened in November of 2009. Fall is my mother’s favorite season too; she lay in the I.C.U. that fall while I ate cold turkey slabs with boxed gravy slathered on top in the hospital cafeteria.

My husband was with his family in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day of 2009, but I could not leave my mother regardless of whether she knew who I was. She was awake, she was afraid; she was comforted by familiar poetry even though she couldn’t remember my name. She knew, at times, that I was her baby, the baby sister, and she knew the older one too, sitting next to me while we held her hand, the one who was nauseated and in her first trimester of pregnancy.

I told my mother that when she got better I was going to take her to see the origami holiday tree at the Museum of Natural History, and the skating rink at Rockefeller Center where she had performed for thousands in her youth. I told her that autumn was waiting for her: the cold dark nights that she loved so much, the crunchy leaves that had never to her symbolized finality and death but instead thrill and possibility. My mother was the Morticia Addams of weather. If it was raining or sleeting or bitingly cold and dark, she grew electric with excitement.

It is now 2014, and my mother does not know that it is fall. She is in the hospital again, as she has been many times in the last year. She has recently begun to suffer from acute panic attacks. They don’t know if it is related to her dementia or not, but I begged the doctor to make her comfortable. I begged the doctor for a prescription for Xanax. I think today, at long last, it was granted.

My daughter turns three years old this November. After two and a half years of harmony, I’ve had to face what every parent must face at various times throughout parenthood: disequilibrium, the experts call it. Children, they say, go through periods of equilibrium with their caretakers followed by periods of disequilibrium. I have witnessed, for the first time in her career as a person, much foot-stamping, boundary-testing, and whining and a characteristic certainly not exclusive to small children: an inability to appreciate her good fortune in life and a stubborn focus on something she feels she is being denied.

I love her so much. She has certain expressions and a movie-star glow that recall my mother’s baby photos. I put my child down on the street and she dashes into the crowd with a speed I thought was only possible in cartoons. My mother has told me she was the same way, and that my grandmother was forever pulling out her hair trying to keep track of her as a toddler. That’s why they gave her figure skates at the age of four. She did a lot with them.

My first long season of harmony has passed with my daughter, but I know we have many more in our future. I also know that the daily silly but exhausting battles, the ones that I talk her calmly through, those will pass as we reach a new place in childhood. I always had a pipeline to my mother and I don’t remember any rebellions or secrets. I hope my daughter and I have the same essential trust and love as she grows.

My season with my mother– all the seasons with my mother–are over. Yes, she is alive, she still feels pain and panic and heartbreak over her loss of identity. But our relationship is one of maintenance. I maintain her as best I can when I see her, when I call her, when she calls me late at night. Some nights my husband goes to her apartment to hold her hand, to give her something to calm her down.

She won’t ever put out my clothes for school again. She doesn’t remember what I looked like when I wore them. She doesn’t remember her granddaughter’s name, but she hears her voice chirping in the background and clucks with delight at its charm. She tells me how much she wants to see her; I remind my mother that she saw her yesterday. And around we go.

It’s always winter for my mother now. There will be no more springs and no more falls, even if she lives through ten more. I mourn, I remember, I study old photos, I hold my daughter close and read her even more books at bedtime. I don’t care if she goes to bed late or makes paper chains with her father at 10 pm. I don’t mind if she wants to wear her nightgown and rain boots to the local bookstore.

This is one of many seasons with my daughter. Disequilibrium or no, we are together, and we both know who each is to the other and we both remember what we did the day before and we sleep in the same house because she is our little girl. And there is still much cuddling, much joy, much seeking of approval and an avalanche of questions about how the world works. Life is good with my young family.

I wish I could bring my mother into this world. I wish she could remember a day spent at the park. I wish she could remember the days of my youth. But she doesn’t. I mustn’t stubbornly focus on what I cannot have. I’m trying to teach my toddler to appreciate all she has and the beauty of the season that officially arrives next week, on her father’s birthday. There is no way to teach but by example.

I must not relinquish autumn to the dark winds that happen to be swirling this year. This is my season, and it was my mother’s season. It’s time to turn up the Benny Goodman and turn the living room lights as high as they will go and dance with my husband and my daughter, and when she is here, with my mother.

When my mother is no longer, whenever that may be, it will be more important than ever to claim autumn as a time of celebration. I will say this to my daughter:

“This was one of your grandmother’s greatest joys, this season. It all begins now: store windows, school supplies, fall clothes, holiday parties, twinkling lights, scarves wrapped protectively against the chill on a late night’s walk. This was your grandmother’s. She gave it to me. And I give it to you.”

Bio: Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor and dancer living in NYC. Her writing has been featured on Mamapedia, Mamalode, The HuffingtonPost, Off The Shelf, Nanny Magazine, Tipsy Lit, Blunt Moms, Project Underblog and others. You can also find her writing at hungrylittleanimal.blogspot.com. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Ray, Janay and Baltimore’s Reality

3-2-13-better-cropMy Ravens kicked ass last night. Trust that this win was as much for their team as it was for their city. Ray Rice, the Ravens and Baltimore have been under attack for the better part of this week. Why?

Since when is a human not allowed to make mistakes? Ray Rice earned the benefit of the doubt by his PREVIOUS behavior and good works, both on and off the field.

I have responded to comments online (silly me) and the pushback and hate has been palpable. My simple message is we all make mistakes and show appallingly poor judgment. We all have done something, of which we are now ashamed of. However, we did not have a spotlight or camera to record and show the world our failings. Thank you God for that!

Ray Rice is a man, who until that dastardly act was a fixture on and off the field and an inspiration to many in our city. It hurt my heart and broke the hearts of many in Baltimore to see “our” Ray Rice hit a woman hard enough to knock her unconscious. Shocked, stunned and horrified were many of the reactions seen and heard across our town.

Ray is a man who made a terrible mistake. So the real question is where do we go from here? Like so many other personal issues, some things cannot be done from the outside in. Ray has to address and be accountable for the way his actions have impacted his family, his life and lifestyle.

It gladdened my heart to see so much support for Ray and Janay last night. So many comments were made regarding those fans who chose to wear their #27 jerseys. These fans saw the man beyond the act and followed their hearts.

His team mates acknowledge he will be missed, his actions were repulsive, but he remains a “friend.” For those of who understand the word “friend”, do you throw your friend under the bus due to one mistake or error in judgment? Not a hint of this kind of behavior has ever been attributed to Mr. Rice (and there are Ravens currently playing who cannot make the same claim).

Please acknowledge that if you don’t live here you simply don’t know what we know. Ray Rice has been an exemplary citizen. No indication of this kind of mentality has been shown or seen. Ray has stepped up to the plate and participated in community events, many revolving around children. His actions against his wife were heartbreaking and callous. This is not the man we have grown to love over the last five years.

For these reasons, the Rice family will continue to be supported by the city of Baltimore. They need love, encouragement and counseling to work through this challenge while they determine if their marriage has a chance to heal.

This conversation will continue in Baltimore as it will elsewhere. The difference is, here in Baltimore, we “know” Ray Rice and the rest of America does not. Let those who are without sin cast the first stone and remember God Forgives.

This is no defense of Ray Rice’s actions, but of Ray Rice the man as we knew him to be. That is the man who is being supported by his fans and his team mates. Let him atone for his action and work to regain the stature he once held. It will be a hard road, but I am sure both Ray and Janay are up to the challenge.

PART 2:

Ray Rice filed an appeal to his suspension today, September 16, 2014. Any intelligent person knew this was coming. Exactly how stupid are “we the people anyway?”

The consensus in Baltimore varies, however, most people here are aware Ray and Janay have been in counseling since the event occurred in February. The dastardly event and tape was released in full last week and has been an ongoing topic of discussion.

Trust me. This is a topic you can discuss with anyone and everyone who has a few minutes to spare. Waiting for the car to be serviced? Ray Rice? Doctor’s office? Ray Rice. The easiest ways to get into a heated discussion with people you don’t know. Often each side agrees to what the other side has to offer. How often does that happen?

So, I am here to explain why I am upset about the indefinite suspension and firing by the Ravens. Be VERY clear, I am not defending Ray Rice. What he did was horrific and deplorable. However, he knows he was wrong. He knows how badly he let an entire community down. And no, if you don’t live in his hometown or Baltimore you just don’t count. Feel free to express your “opinion” but it is yours as this is mine.

He was the good guy. Never did we hear anything negative about Ray Rice. Not ever in the last five years. Many current Ravens do not have his sterling reputation. The one he has now ruined.

He ruined it with one punch to the face of a woman who later chose to become his wife. She said he had never hit her before. As hard as he hit her, it would be disastrous to imagine him every hitting her again. That is why they are in counseling.

My serious issue is with how the NFL decided to handle this volatile situation. They totally failed by only giving him a two game suspension. They FAILED. He should have been fired then, but he was not. Now, since “we the people” have seen the entire tape, NOW he gets fired. This is double jeopardy and a sordid attempt for the NFL to cover its ass.

Hell yes the NFL saw the entire tape. I knew it and everyone in Baltimore KNEW it last week. We needed no “proof.” The whole sleazy affair smacks of CYA and little else.

Ray Rice, the Ravens and the NFL all agreed to his punishment. This is a renege and a violation of trust. It does not make the decision regarding their initial punishment go away. It is a punk move by the NFL, and the only item in play is lost revenue.

I am glad he appealed. I hope he sues and walks away from football forever. There are lessons to be learned here for players, fans and the NFL. After the Rice family has come to terms with this disaster, they will be in a perfect position to show, not tell how they plan on contributing to society again.

My usual “just walk away” advice does not seem to appeal to women, and not many women actually take it. Too late for Janay Rice– she is now married to her abuser. With hard work, prayer, discipline and accountability they can survive this. But will they? They have my prayers and my kindest thoughts.
Here is a link from the Baltimore Sun:

Bio: Michelle D. Smith is a visionary and spiritual gladiator seeking to share awareness with many. She uses words as her sword and the love and grace of God as her shield. She is a Certified Angel Card Reader with a relationship site, a spiritual blog, and several online dating sites. She is a published author who writes a relationship column for Black Refer.com. The different niches for each site allow her to reach a variety of people to amuse, entertain and inspire. Find her at Your Spiritual Garden and on Twitter

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