Pride

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I’m not usually hugely patriotic. I realize it’s not a very widely adored attitude, but I’m just being honest. I’ve visited 12 other countries and I’ve liked pretty much all of them, so it’s sometimes hard for me to swallow the flag waving, “we are the ‘best’ country in the world,” mentality. I understand loving the good ole USA, but Italy is pretty great too. So is France, and Spain, and Ireland. So what makes us the “best?” Is there a rubric? My theory is that people like to say it because they want it to be true. I guess I just think that other places are pretty damn amazing too, and many times, far superior in certain aspects than our beloved US of A. That’s just reality. So, while I’m a fan of ‘merica in general, I also don’t understand the attitude of needing to “best” the rest of the free world. I’ve never related to the desire to tag it as the winner in some imaginary competition of greatness. Then again, I’m not very competitive by nature.

But, sometimes, something amazing does happen that actually gives you a reason to really wave that red, white and blue flag around. Like, if there was a rubric, we would have just aced that sucker. Those are the days where there is something tangible to be proud of. Something you can speak about with specific admiration. Yesterday, just a little shy of the 4th of July, was one of those days.

Gay marriage finally became legal in all 50 states, and that IS something to brag about. The hold-up was getting to be too much. I mean….honestly. Why anyone ever cared, I’ll never know.

Few things have baffled me more than the reluctance to accept the lifestyle of the LGBT community.

The big deal about it completely escapes me. I have been confounded by the notion that in a world plagued by poverty, addiction, racism, violent crime, corruption, and greed, there are people that choose homosexuality as their “cause” to stand up against?? How silly and sad. How disappointing and small. 

There is a girl who I’ve known since childhood, in a way that I consider to be family, who is a lesbian. She was deployed to the desert in the middle of Afghanistan for a year, so that she could fight the battle of a country who didn’t stand up for her in the most basic of ways. She wasn’t granted the same civil rights and liberties that she defended every day… and yet she still did the job. Pretty outstanding if you ask me. I sure as hell wouldn’t have done it. It’s about time someone stood up for her, and the millions of other people that have suffered the same discriminations.

So….rather than trying to sort my feelings out about the idiocy that blinds many, or even worse, to try and argue it, I’m going to choose to be profoundly happy, and extraordinarily relieved, that their close-minded voices finally weren’t loud enough. I’m going to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the ignorant outcries of opposition made by those that choose not to celebrate this great leap in acceptance. I will be stoked about the prevail of fairness, acceptance and humanity for so many. I’m going to be glad for the millions of people who have lived under the veil of discrimination, and who can now enjoy the rights they are fundamentally entitled to. I’m going to ignore that haters. We wouldn’t like each other anyway.

I’m going to be happy that my own sweet children will grow up in a world where they are taught not only by me, but by the law, that all love is equal and something to celebrate. They will learn that happiness between any two people is happiness all the same. Seems like playground rules to me, so I’m confident they should have no problem understanding. Thankfully, they will never know a time or place where that was anything but truth, and I very much doubt they will think twice about it. 

I’m going to light a rainbow of fireworks next weekend with intention, and celebrate every color I see.

Love won. And that’s something to be proud of.

The “Better” In My Better Half

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There is a moment in my parenting career that will be perfectly preserved in my mind for all eternity. It was the day that my 3-year-old son came sprinting through the house in a panic (wearing spaceship pajamas), and upon finding me, out of breath from his search, he yelled, “Mom, you have to come quick! We had an accident and there is poop all over my dad!!”

Oh shit. I thought to myself. No pun intended.

I have to say that it crossed my mind that I should run outside and hide…play dumb and pretend that I misunderstood, or that I thought it was a joke. After all no one came to my rescue when I found myself up shit creek without a paddle. But then I thought of my baby up there in the hands of my panicking husband, and I let the softer side of me win out. Fine. I’ll save his ass. Again.

It was sort of all worth it when I walked in and took in the epic fail that was in progress. It remains one of the most hilarious sights I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where he had gone wrong, but things had clearly gone south in a hurry. He looked helpless and basically desperate for my help, so I let him off the hook and took it from there.

It seems like dads often experience moments like this. Moments when the mom walks in all “expert level,” and the dad appears to be the hapless rookie sidekick. In fact, sometimes it seems this view is a product of the parenting culture that society (and possibly biology) has created. Mom is #1, the default parent, and dad is #2 the back-up parent. Today, to give props to my children’s father, I’m going to attempt to do something I never do. I’m going to admit that there are things that he is better at than me. Anyone that knows me knows that this is quite the gift. I’m essentially giving him the equivalent of a pony or a tropical vacation. You’re welcome dear. So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. He is better at “playing guys”. I suck at playing guys. What are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to say? Is this really a realistic plot line? I feel like we can do better. Let’s work on some character development here….I mean what kind of guy is Batman really? My kids look at me with a mixture of confusion and pity. My husband, however, seems to get it. He and my kids fly those guys around laughing and having a blast. He doesn’t even appear to hate it, and I feel like he really gets Batman, you know? And that means I don’t have to. So it really works out for everyone.

2. He seems fully oblivious to all of the nine zillion jobs in our house that need to be done while he is playing with them. Sometimes that really bugs me. But, sometimes I look deeper and I know that it’s actually a great thing. I want my kids to have that kind of undivided attention at times, and I know that I can be of the adult ADD variety, and struggle at doing it myself. I will see the laundry that needs putting away, dinner that isn’t cleaned up, the permission slip I haven’t filled out yet, etc. My husband does not. When he’s playing with the kids, he’s playing with the kids. That’s a pretty cool thing.

3. He makes their weekend mornings with him cool and fun. Like it’s the thing he’s been waiting for all week. He makes big breakfasts and he lets the kids help (even though they usually flip pancakes onto the floor and get everything everywhere), and he’s never in a rush.  I don’t love making a big breakfast. I dread cleaning up the mess and I usually want to beat it to the gym when I wake up, or get started with whatever I want to do that day. I appreciate that he has that little tradition with them and I know they do too.

4. He never bails on them when he’s promised them something. Even when it’s a lot of work or it’s really inconvenient. To me in a world that is littered with people that flake on you, that’s pretty awesome. I think it’s easy to become too busy or self-absorbed these days and fail to realize how much they look forward to small things. But when he says they can go fishing on Saturday morning, or get ice cream on Friday night, he makes it happen no matter what. If he gives them his word, he keeps it. Ace move.

5. He can make sweet explosion noises, helicopter sounds and other things like that that make him a certifiable bad ass to our kids. WOAH! Mom! Dad sounds JUST LIKE A T-REX!!!! I can’t do that stuff, and I’ve come to find out that kids really dig it. Sometimes I secretly try to make a cool engine sound in the shower or something, but it just sounds lame and unconvincing. I am fully convinced this is a weird ability that men are born with.

6. He is good at wresting, tickling, and hanging them upside down. He will shake them, and spin them, and fly them until they’re in tears from laughing like it’s his job. Sometimes, he runs around with one on his shoulders and the other on his back. I tried it once and dropped them and hurt my knees.

7. He is super patient. Patience is not a natural virtue of mine. I can dig deep and make it happen but with him it’s always right on the surface. I can be quick to correct behavior or attitudes that I don’t appreciate, and he is more likely to try to find a reason behind it. Sometimes when all I see is the black and white, he’s the one that finds the gray.

8. He’s quick to laugh and good at knowing what they will laugh at. He introduced our big kid to America’s Funniest Videos one day long ago, and I have never seen a kid dissolve into hysterics like my son did over his first episode of AFV. Now it’s kind of their thing at the end of a long day. Nothing is better than hearing your house filled with laughter.

9. He is good at taking risks and letting them learn things that freak me out. He is the one I enlist to teach them dangerous, but awesome, new life skills. I cringe when watching things like skiing and bike riding in the early phases. I’m happy once they’ve learned, but I definitely do not like witnessing the process. Watching them wipe-out, skin their knees, acquire bruises and goose eggs… that’s just not my jam. Very counter-intuitive. I like to show up after the first few lessons and see the shiny finished product without being exposed to the painful beginning of it all. Plus, seeing me hyperventilating while I give them a thumbs-up sends a mixed message.

My better half spent his pre-kid free time: flying planes after work, golfing, boating, and attending professional sporting events as often as an ESPN correspondent. I’m sure on some days, that life sounds a lot more appealing than changing diapers and dealing with a wife that plays out yoga pants. However, he rarely complains, or even seems to miss the days when his time was his own. To me, that’s a sure sign of a good man. In fact, his biggest fear these days, is of our kids growing up too quickly. He’s mourning the loss of them being little before it’s even happened. The evolution of man to father has a crazy one to witness and it’s pretty damn cool. So cheers to you today and everyday…I’m thankful and lucky to have you at our loud, messy table.

My Grandma, The Godfather

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My grandma was like the Godfather of my family. She ruled our family, her 4 boys and 10 grandchildren, with unwavering expectations, and didn’t mince words when one of us fell out of line. She was queen of her matriarch and she taught me what it means to be a strong woman. She grew up a farmer’s daughter in Iowa during the Depression, and she was the real deal. Tough as nails in every way. The strength of her spirit could fill a room. That’s what I remember most about her.

Now that I am a mother, and a wife, and a grown-up with real responsibilities, I understand her in a way that I couldn’t before she left us 12 years ago. She’s still teaching me now- possibly more than ever before.

She was only able to go to school through the 8th grade because of the demands of her family’s farm during desperate times. She wasn’t given the opportunity for the education she wanted, and therefore, didn’t have a lot of respect for people who were given the chance and didn’t take it. She used to tell me that I, “Damn well better go to college,” because a woman should always be able to take care of herself. She would remind me of how fortunate I was, and she would say not to blow it or else I would find myself, “without a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of.” She always said it with calm conviction, as she gazed at me over the rim of her Manhattan. Godfather style.

She was a pioneer for women’s rights whether she meant to be or not. Working full time with four boys at home simply wasn’t something most women did in the 50’s. And she didn’t give two shits what anyone thought about it. I imagine them all as little tornadoes, spinning chaotically through the world around her, their mama tornado, the biggest and bravest of them all. She used to tell me that she needed other people’s opinions like she needed a hole in the head, and I would be wise to take the same approach. She said as long as you knew your own way, you had no reason to stop and ask for directions. She defied convention whenever it suited her, and she never cared a thing about what anyone had to say about it.

She was not much of a “lady” according to your standard definition. She had no use for any of the pomp and circumstance that went along with the societal expectations of being a woman. She liked Vegas, was a closet smoker, and could curse a blue streak.

Once my mother passed my grandma while driving and beeped her horn to say hello. Instead of getting a wave in return, my dear old granny flipped her off without hesitation. Her reaction was a reflex- like when the doctor gives your knee a little tap and your leg kicks in response. She was a bolt of lightening. A firecracker in pearl earrings.

She drank a Manhattan every single day of her life at 5 o’clock. If you had a brain in your head, you knew the time to go to her for any sizable favor, or to face the music about something stupid you had done, was at 5:30. If you still got the wrath, well, that just meant nothing on this earth was going to save you. After one such episode when I was about 13, I spent the night looking up the words she used to describe me and my behavior in a dictionary. I had it coming and she didn’t mind giving it to me. She didn’t back down from a fight for a worthy cause, and I see now that my petulant teenage self was her cause. More times than one.

This spitfire granny of mine had a soft side too. Her eyes would shine whenever she would tell a story about my grandpa who had died of a heart attack when he was only 66. She had a smile that lit up the room and liked Danielle Steel novels. She loved hummingbirds and gardening and going to lunch at the Olive Garden. She liked to sit with me on her screened-porch and tell me stories about when she was a girl in Iowa, or about the of millions of times my dad and uncles did things that they weren’t supposed to when they were little boys.

She was afraid to swim because of a childhood accident but she still loved the water. With the true essence of a survivor, she didn’t allow her fear to get the better of her.

She made quilts and sugar cookies that she delivered to her grandchildren in coffee tins every Christmas morning. She taught me how to make a peach pie and took me fishing. She wrote me letters in beautiful cursive about how much she missed me when I was away at college.

I made sure I never went home without going to visit her. I adored her and her brazen and bold way of living. She taught me most of what I know about standing up for what I believe in and self preservation. She wanted me to be brave and live up to my potential. I can still hear her voice encouraging me whenever self-doubt rears its ugly head.

She didn’t think it was cute to twirl your hair and giggle at boys and match your sweater to your shoes. She thought it was cute to be an independent woman who knew about life. A woman who could take care of herself in a world full of men who thought they knew better. She looked at a little girl, and and willed her to grow up to be a woman full of strength, fortitude, and knowledge.

In a world where young women are bombarded with the wrong messages every day, I thank my lucky stars that I had her to answer to. I wish that for every little girl in the world. May they all have someone who shows them what they truly can become. 

Life Lessons. Love, MOM

To My Little Ones,

As your one and only mom, there are lots of things I need to teach you in this life. Some are what I would call no-brainers. Don’t hit people when they make you mad. Don’t call people names. Say please and thank you. Be kind. Yada yada. Those ideals have been imparted onto children by their devoted moms and dads since the beginning of time. They’re a cinch, right?

I have another list that is less of a cinch, and will take more time for you to understand. This list has the big dogs. Here is what I hope you will carry in your huge, exquisite hearts always….

1. Be kind to your waiters and waitresses. The only thing that I find more disgusting than chewing with your mouth open is being rude to your server. No one is more disappointing than a spoiled little jerk who acts like their world will implode because they have to wait 5 more minutes for their Jalapeno poppers. Very uncool. Remember your manners and keep your perspective.

2. I am not your friend. I may be someday, but not for a good, long while. I love you more than the moon and the stars combined. I cross my fingers and my heart that your life will be full of devoted pals. I will play games, sing songs and go to every soccer game, but I am not your friend.  I am your mom and my job description is much different.

3. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. This one can be trickier at certain times in our lives. Like from puberty until college. We all go through seasons of life when we are unsure of ourselves. There is no such thing as “fake-it ’til you make it, ” and whoever made up that saying is a moron. Don’t “fake-it,” ever. Be your beautiful, wonderful self, and if that doesn’t seem to be working out for you, just wait. It will. You can never screw up by being authentic.

4. The world doesn’t owe you anything. You are required to prove yourself to the world. You are not entitled to privilege or greatness or a good job or a fast car just because you exist. You get what you most desire by shining your own light. Be good, be true, and be kind, then wait for it to come back to you because it does not happen, “just because.”

5. You should only lie to get out of traffic tickets. Otherwise, play it straight. People can spot a liar a mile away and hardly anything is a bigger turn off. Take a deep breath and tell the truth even when it’s difficult. It’s always better that way.

6. Know yourself. The day will come when you will know what is best for you. That day will mean I have done my job, and I will hopefully be sunning myself somewhere awesome, drinking a cocktail to celebrate. Dream your dreams, and listen for that little nagging voice. That voice is your heart and soul, and everything that makes you, you. Only you can hear it, and you are always right to listen. The world is full of mediocrity because people have ignored themselves.

7. Travel. This world is enormous and breathtaking, and rich with wonderful things. Don’t stay in a corner and and risk missing it. Spread your wings and fly. I’ll miss you when you’re far, but my heart will be full knowing what you will see and learn. Eat weird food, stay up all night, and live with your eyes wide open. Have an adventure. You won’t regret it.

8. Do small things with greater purpose. Hold doors open, give your spare change to someone in need, pick up trash, look people in the eye when you speak to them. Those things take almost no effort to do, but make a big impact on the world you live in. Never underestimate the power of simple gestures.

9. Don’t judge other people or assume yourself as an authority over how they should lead their life. Worry about yourself. You are not the keeper of the universe so MYOB. We are all connected in this beautiful world, and everyone deserves your kindness, grace, and acceptance. 

10. Don’t be afraid to love someone with your whole heart. Connection is what defines the human experience. It is beautiful and terrifying and may make you say and do ridiculous things, but trust the process and give it a shot. I love you with my whole heart and it is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. You will never regret a true love.

Live well and know even if you miss the mark on every single piece of advice I give you, you are still my favorite people in the whole, wide world. You will never be perfect, nor should you attempt it. Perfection is boring, overrated, and impossible. Instead, just try to be good.

Love, MOM

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To All the Moms

91eae-supermomWhen I was on my Smokey Mountain trip a few weeks ago, my husband and I made a brave choice. We decided to hike a very vertical 1.2 miles to Laurel Falls. We had heard so much about how beautiful it was, and while we had been avoiding any steep hikes with our 3 and 6 year old in tow, we decided that the distance was short enough that if needed, we could each carry a kid without too much pain and suffering. About .4 miles into the hike, on our third break, we ran into another family from Michigan whose kids looked about our kids age, and we starting chatting. They were on their way back and morale seemed low. After a minute the mom gave me a meaningful look and asked, “So, have your kids been good?” I answered with a shrug of my shoulders and said, “Yeah, so far….we really haven’t been out here for very long.” She replied with a desperate look and said, “No, not on this hike. I mean on this trip. Mine have been so terrible, they’ve complained non-stop…I cried yesterday.” She had the worn look of a mom in the trenches. I recognized the defeated slump of her shoulders and the familiar frustration in her eyes. I assured her that my kids had certainly had their moments and prescribed an immediate stiff cocktail. She stood up a little straighter, we wished each other luck, and she forged on down the trail with her little ones bumping after her, wielding large sticks that they were swinging at each other in a weapon-like fashion. My son immediately fell into an ice cold pool of water once we finally reached those majestic falls, soaking himself from head to toe. He had to be fished out while I held my daughter back because now she wanted to “swim” too. My husband carried him, dripping wet, the 1.2 miles back down, while I carried my daughter the entire way as well. Complaints filled the mountain air and I thought of that mom the whole way back. 
There is hardly a group of people I have more affection for these days than my fellow moms. Who else could understand the absurdity, the beauty, the love, and the exhaustion of my day to day life? Any mother would understand completely if she overheard me calling peanut butter and jelly a “pink sandwich” so that my 3 year old would eat it, and wouldn’t blink an eye if they came across the note I left for the babysitter that said, “she’ll have lunch around noon. It should be no big deal as long as you wouldn’t mind cheering a bit each time she takes a bite. Oh, and we are working on potty training, so if you think she has to go just put her pink potty in front of tv, and turn the dancing bear video on from youtube. Helpful if you do the movements as well and sing along. Very easy to learn. Call with questions. thx.”  That would seem like a totally reasonable thing to do to another mother, when in fact, it’s slightly insane. It’s only one thing on a long list of other slightly insane things that I do and think each and every day. When I discovered that my son was born with bilateral hernias and that it happens to 4% of babies during gestation, my first reaction was to be angry at my own body. Why didn’t I make the damn abdominal wall the right way?! Way to go mom! I should have taken more folic acid and avoided that weird herbal tea. Who even knows what’s in that stuff?!
The first time my husband and I got on a plane together after becoming parents we were headed to a wedding in Napa (without our baby). I should have been ecstatic! Elated to drink wine, be somewhere beautiful, to sleep. Instead I could be found sobbing out the window as the plane took off. What the hell were we thinking having both of us fly on this thing together?! How stupid and irresponsible! What kind of monsters were we? We are practically begging the universe to orphan our only son! Morons! Surely our child was doomed.
Now, those thoughts are of course completely unreasonable, and many times my internal dialogue could surely have me considered a top-notch candidate for institutional care, but it’s because I just love them so much. My own mortality and the world itself seem to have very little to do with me anymore. The world has to be an exceptional, beautiful, and wonderful place for them. Instead of being full of merely other people, the world is now comprised of sons and daughters who all deserve to be happy and safe. Their mothers are out there somewhere and share the same crazy love as I do, and have the same need to make this life incredible for them. I always tell my kids if they ever get lost to find a mom with little kids just like them. She will help you, I promise them.  She will know I’m looking for you and will help you find me. She will want you to be safe.
So on this day, to all of the other slightly psychotic moms out there, enjoy some well needed rest and a reprieve for our compulsive need to prevent the universe from possible ruin. You deserve it, damnit. It’s exhausting, often thankless work that we do, and we need a break sometimes. We’ll pick up where we left off tomorrow. 

Four Corners

4b253-four2bcornersOne of my fifth grader’s asked me if I liked high school the other day. She looked full of wonder and ready for adventures, and reminded me of myself a long time ago. Immediately, my mind flashed to the hallways that felt like they were a million years gone, but that I still knew like the back of my hand. There was an intersection affectionately dubbed the Four Corners in my high school. I still dream about it sometimes because it’s the first thing I think of when I think of that time in my life. It was at this infamous landmark that dreams came true and hearts were broken every day. It buzzed with the aliveness and heightened sensibilities that belong only to teenagers. The time in our lives where we exist in a unique and permanent state of equal parts tragedy, exhilaration, hope, and attitude. The Four Corners were the epicenter of my teen universe.
It was at the Four Corners that I sat on the floor with my best friends every morning waiting to see my high school boyfriend walk into school with a bounce in his step. Full of the confidence only a good looking 16-year-old boy has. His hair was long and would fall forward into his eyes. I would sit there full of nerves and love waiting for him to take his spot next to me. It was at that same spot that I would later find out that he kissed another girl who I didn’t like at all, and I would push him as hard as I could into one of the brick walls, as the corners absorbed the agony of my first break up. I listened to Alanis Morissette on repeat for the rest of the year and cried in the bathroom a lot.
I stood at the Four Corners the first time I fought for something I wanted for myself. I squared my shoulders and looked into the grown-up eyes of my 9th grade lit teacher and demanded to know why I wasn’t placed in AP english for my sophomore year. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet but I knew that was my strength. He told me it was because I skipped class, talked too much, didn’t pay attention, and didn’t care about the rules. He had a point. I made him and myself a promise and he placed me. I got a 4.0 in every AP english class for the rest of high school, and reserved my general apathy and undesirable behavior for every other class except journalism. I learned that when I wanted something for myself I had to prove it, and that sometimes good people stick their necks out for you. And that no one could ever make me care about math or chemistry, no matter how hard they tried.
The Four Corners was the first place I ever saw a real fight. I saw two of my friends and classmates turn into other people and go toe to toe while their fists connected with each other’s faces, and a crowd surrounded them. Girls cried and yelled for them to stop, and boys seemed to come awake and alive and want to see more. I learned that sometimes men and women can be fundamentally different, and that sometimes men got carried away with testosterone and adrenaline and became like animals on a National Geographic documentary. 
You could stand at that spot and see the heartbeat of a high school. It knew everyone’s secrets and saw everyone’s story. The over-achievers buried in their books on their way to Princeton and Yale, the hippies passing through with glassy eyes and deep thoughts, the shy kids who kept their eyes glued to the floor and longed to be invisible. The jocks, the suck-ups, the partiers waiting for Friday.…everyone had a place and a role to play. It was an adolescent jungle of social order and angst. Teenagers are raw and unfiltered and are closely related to adult humans, but are without a doubt a slightly different species. More free that they will ever be again and more kept at the very same time.
I remember standing there on the last day of my senior year terrified and thrilled that it was over. Ready to run out the doors, and ready to sit down and stay forever. High school was safe and funny and full of people that felt like home. It was bonfires, football games, hoodies, and cheap beer with old friends. It was long drives in the country with loud music and good company. It was laughing until you cried and finding out what you liked. Since not all, or any of this can or should be conveyed to a 10 year old, I just told that hopeful 5th grader the other day that, yes I liked high school, and I bet she would too. She smiled and looked relieved and happy and innocent, pacified by the ordinary answer to her simple question, having no idea at all what it gave me to think about.

Good Guys

Sometimes, I get accidentally hung up on people that piss me off. Someone that gives me the finger at a stop light will haunt me for days, and I’ll torture myself for weeks thinking of all of the missed burns and sweet comebacks I could have deployed on a rude, disgruntled TSA employee. (Speaking of which, I met a really mean sandwich artist at Subway on spring break last week. She’ll be with me for a while. SO SORRY, that I wanted my bread toasted lady. And the nerve I had asking you for pepperjack cheese… it’s like I thought it was your job to make me a sandwich or something! Pretty sure I ate a 6-inch spit surprise that day).

Anyway, it’s a complete weakness of mine, and allows those wormy little people to be a part of my life for far longer than the 5 seconds the universe intended us to be together. With such an affliction, it would be easy for me to cross over to the dark side and conclude that most people sort of suck. That’s why I feel so thankful and renewed when life hits the reset button and reminds me of all the good guys out there. Because there really are so many, and it seems like that’s too easy to forget sometimes. This week they came out of the woodwork in droves, and I am so grateful and humbled by the reminder that they’re out there, all around us.

My number one little man had to have surgery Thursday morning. It was a fairly routine procedure, but I would be a gigantic fibber if I didn’t admit that the whole affair tore me to shreds. Watching my favorite boy in the world get wheeled off on a stretcher wearing a hospital gown, made me crumble into a million tiny bits of myself. Secretly and in a corner of course, but I crumbled all the same. I was emotionally spent at the end of the whole ordeal to say the very least.

And then there were the balloons on our front porch when we got home the next day. And a big bag of chocolate muffins, and a bundle of the sweetest homemade cards from all of his kindergarten buddies. I reminded myself of how much good there is in the world as I watched his face light up while he read each one. One after another he read their sweet little messages in their perfect, crooked kindergarten handwriting. His day was made, and that made mine.

His best buddy spent his sunny, 70 degree afternoon at my house Saturday taking it easy with my son to keep him company. He gave up a day of riding his bike and running around to lay low with his pal. He said please and thank you, and included my daughter, (who has perfected the part of the pesky little sister these days), in everything they did. His good and kind parents already shining through their little boy.

Later that afternoon, I was on a walk with my daughter and we dropped by a neighbor’s house to say hi. Her kids were eating lunch and before I knew it my little lady was saddled up at their table with a plate of her own. She left half and wanted to beat feet back to her bike the second she finished, and they didn’t think twice about it. More generosity. More community.  

Our other neighbors invited both of our kids over for a two and half hour playdate this morning. Giving their kids the lowdown that it would have to be a relaxed day because of our patient so that I wouldn’t have to worry. I was able to relax and take a breath after a week I would love to forget. I made a green tea roadie in my favorite wonder woman cup, and went for a long walk with my husband. We went no where in particular with no concern for what time it was. We talked and walked and weren’t interrupted even once.

My weekend was filled with calls, emails, and texts from friends near and far checking on my guy and our family. So much love out there for him already in his 6 short years in this world. It made me realize that of all the bad decisions and missteps I’ve made in my life (don’t start listing them in the comments, I remember), I must have made some good calls too. Because now I find myself here, surrounded by the good guys. I think in writing this I even just forgave that mean sandwich lady….maybe she just hasn’t found her good guys yet.

Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin Man

I once had this moment where I felt so truly alive…so entirely free, and awake, and buzzing with the thrill and exhilaration of the human existence, that this particular moment became etched in my mind and memory forever. It became the moment in which I would measure against all other moments, forever chasing the lightness and joy that it held for me.
I was 23 and on a train that rumbled through the Italian Riviera. It was sunny and I was listening to the Allman Brothers on a clunky yellow discman. I was looking out the window, and it dawned on me that I had possibly never felt happier than I did right then. I had the unmistakable high of someone who was traveling. Seeing new things, meeting new people, living. I didn’t take a cell phone and only had internet access if I went into an internet cafe, which I rarely did. I was off the map. The addicting feeling that was travel, had led me to shove a new life into a backpack and set off to explore a new continent with three people that I barely knew. The decision that ended up being one of the very best I ever made, and those three people who I barely knew became people I would love and be bonded to in the most unique and cool way. We saw the world together. We traveled. We lived. Traveling became something that I wanted to define my life. I wanted the adventure to last and last, and be etched on my tombstone. Here lies the girl that saw everything, did everything, and missed nothing. No stone unturned. Badass Gypsy. RIP.
Ok, so far that isn’t really going down. In the past 10 years my wings have been seriously clipped and I get excited if I go to a new Target these days. Where do they keep the Pirates Booty here!? I don’t even know!!!! However, from time to time, I’m still able to squeeze in a real adventure. And I’m even ok with this dynamic for now. I know that’s just the phase of life I’m in, and as long as I don’t get taken out by a bolt of lightning, or a pissed off mom in the loop line, I’ll have a chance to get back to my more badass version of travel and living someday if I want to. Just not right now. Right now I do what I can, when I can, and chase that high I mentioned in smaller, tamer doses. I just had the pleasure of finding it again for a minute last week. I was sitting in the middle of the Smokey Mountains with my family on a sunny, beautiful morning….every direction I looked, looked too beautiful to be real. My kids had their shoes and socks off and were laughing and playing in a mountain stream with little purple butterflies flying all around us. And there it was, that feeling. I found it. I felt it.
It’s true that on my latest spring break adventure it looked like my car was packed for the apocalypse. Forget about surviving out of a backpack. I’m pretty sure that if hostile aliens were to have invaded we could have hidden in there and lived off of its contents for at least a month. I woke up at 6am every.single.day. because my son is an “early riser,” and has slept past 7am approximately 4 times in his 6.5 years on this earth. My kids got in a screaming, shit-fit fight in the car about who could hold the used Popsicle stick that they found on the floor. I turned around and told them I was going to tell the Easter Bunny to fill their Easter baskets with garbage next year if they loved it that much. My two year old screamed, “I want to hold the dirty trash!!!!”  I gave up. We made a trip to the ER. A $300 pair of pediatric prescription sunglasses sank to the bottom of a river. My souvenirs included children’s Dramamine, Children’s Mucinex Day and Children’s Mucinex Night, Halls, Honey, Alka Seltzer, Zantac, Benadryl and Ibuprophen. And vodka. None of those things cast a shadow on this trip for me. My expectations of travel have changed. I was ready for all of those things because when you are a parent you know. You are always ready. You don’t let silly things like that wreck your adventure, they become part of your story. You laugh about it later, in the two hours that separate their bedtime from your own while you drink that vodka that I mentioned. 
My kids slept in the same bed, and I listened to them laughing and talking and fighting over their “areas” every night until finally it was silent, and I knew they had drifted off. They played games, made s’mores, skipped rocks, ran through the woods, held hands, and had secrets that they wouldn’t tell me. My daughter turned to me and told me her brother was “her best friend.” I thought of my own brother, my best friend, and the thousands of days like that he and I had shared as kids, and how this was all so, so, worth it. My new definition of travel in all of its domesticated, wing-clipped glory. Every bump in this new windy road I’m on, and all of the changes that come with it, are better than any place I’ve ever been. This is living. 

Past Lives

Sometimes, I mistakenly call my son my little brother’s name. It sends him into fits of giggles every time because to him it seems absurd that I could ever confuse him with his gigantic uncle who towers high above him, has a full beard, and speaks in a low baritone. He doesn’t understand yet that we are all just like those little Russian nesting dolls, the people we are today just housing a bunch of miniature, perfectly intact versions of our former selves. Mausoleums of all of our closed chapters. Somewhere inside of me I’m still 9 and bear a striking resemblance to the girl dressed like a bee in Blind Melon’s No Rain video, and my brother is 7 in his Karate Kid pajamas. To me, it makes perfect sense that when I see a little boy my brother’s name is sometimes the first one that comes to me. Matryoshka Dolls. Sometimes the buried versions are just loud enough that we can still hear them. I’ve spent the past year trying to remember what it is that I really want to do and be in this life, and I’ve been surprised at how much that has caused me to look back instead of forward.
The day that I was struck with the notion that all of the former me’s were preserved inside of the current me, came to me a few years ago while I was bellied up at a bar with my college roommate. Some of my best life thinking has happened in that exact scenario. It’s traditionally followed shortly thereafter by some of my worst, so it all balances out….a real yin and yang of sorts. But anyway, her friend was there too, and he was in the throws of a quarter life crisis, mourning the loss of the inspired kid he thought he was leaving behind. He felt like the free-spirited, adventurous guy he had been in college was being eaten alive and forgotten by the professional grown-up society was forcing him to become. It seemed to be a pretty devastating thing for him as he all but cried into his whiskey, and part of me just wanted to tell him to quit his job and move to Bali so he could be cool again like I always fantasize about doing myself. But, then it sort of hit me that the people we once were don’t disappear at all, they are still in there somewhere no matter what. And if you can’t move to Bali you can still reconnect with them on occasion like I was doing right at that very minute. My current life didn’t usually allow time for listening to the troubles of strangers in the bar midday, but my college self would have considered that to be just another Tuesday. And there I was having a great, grand epiphany, so there was some definite benefit to the activity in question. Sometimes the nested versions that are lost inside of you have to be paid respect and allowed to be heard again just like I was doing that day. I think that remembering who you really were at 10, 15, 20, or 25 can give you some pretty serious insight as to what you want out of your present. I’m willing to bet that as a kid you wanted a lot of the same things that you still want today, even if you’ve lost sight of some of them along the way. Or maybe if you’re honest with yourself, you realize that you’ve even given up a bit. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from spending the past 6 months with kids it’s that there is something to be said for a person before the world beats them down. There have been MANY days where I’ve come home feeling like they taught me as much as I taught them or more…especially when I’ve been lucky enough to hear their ideas, and passions, and dreams. How attainable they all seem to them at this untarnished, idealistic point in their lives… and how disappointed their 10 year old selves would be in their 40 year old selves if none of it came to be. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that. 

Today, I let the 9 year old me win. The girl that used to sneak outside with a wide rule lined notebook and pencil to spend the afternoon writing poems propped up against a cottonwood tree. Sure, I had about one quadrillion other things to do and it was slightly irresponsible not to do them, but I didn’t want to disappoint that kid that I know is in there somewhere. Some days the best thing to do is remember ones that have come long before and let them help you figure out what to do with your tomorrow.