The Merry Mammogram for Me


It was a clear, sunny morning in The Woodlands, Texas. The air was cold enough to warrant a hoodie, jeans, and my favorite faux-leather boots, not enough for a jacket too.

The hospital was fine as most hospitals go. It was square and colorless, with wide, clean windows and smooth tan walls.

“Hullo!” I say cheerily to the woman behind the desk. She smiles and looks me up in the system as she’s helping another patient sign in. She was professional, pleasant, able to multitask with ease. ‘Where am I?’ I think as I sit down in the posh waiting room at the MD Anderson Breast Center Care offices with Memorial Hermann.

I fill out my form, hand it back and wait. After three songs and five pages pages of my book (American Eden by Victoria Johnson) they call me to the intake area.

The woman behind the desk was friendly and efficient, and I gamely fill out more forms.

When I go back to the last waiting room, the one where we all sit in robes and pretend we’re at a spa, I drink coffee they’ve provided and look around me. I can see effort has been made to make it feel spa-like. I’m sitting in a large open area with soft, comfy chairs. My white bathrobe was in a warmer until I put it on. There’s free coffee and tea. I’m impressed until I go over and there’s no tea but English breakfast, and of the 12 drawers of coffee, they’re all empty but one, dark roast. Bah.

When I sit down in the soft comfy spa chair I notice there’s a rip in the cushion, on the right where it meets the right armrest. It seems effort was made initially, but follow-up has been lax at best? The paintings on the wall are nice. It’s a marsh, could have been Amherst, a small town not far from where I grew up.

Of the seven women here I’m probably the youngest. Forty is the base-line year, the time to get your first so we have something to compare it to. Breast cancer rates drop after 50, usually around menopause. I’m not too worried here, if you know me well you know I went through premature menopause at 18 and with my low levels of estrogen I’m not likely to have to worry about this kind of cancer, at least.

I digress. Most of the women are older, a few my age. One lady about ten years older than me, bald head wrapped in a stylish head band smiles at me on her way out. I almost chase her down, wait, no, I should be the one smiling at YOU in encouragement! But she’s gone.

I am called quickly into the scanning area. It’s a younger woman with a few small tattoos peeking out of her long sleeves and under her neckline. I can’t tell what they are, a heart around a sword, maybe. I admit it’s my first one, she tells me what to expect. A pressure-pain but not sharp needle-pain. One picture about 5-6 seconds on each breast, two different angles.

“Hold your breath,” she calls out. As if I needed the reminder. She’s got my right boob squished in a vise. I’m not breathing until this thing lets up.

I’m thinking about Angelina Jolie, about how she went through this very thing, probably in a much fancier hospital in LA, and then she went through everything after including total removal and breast reconstruction. I’m amazed again at her chutzpah, her bravery. Thank you Angelina!

I’m also thinking of a friend who I just found out had breast cancer in her late forties. I will not name names, obv.

Anyway, she had gone through the diagnosis, chemo, breast removal and reconstruction and is now doing well. She’d gone in for a routine mammogram, and it literally saved her life. She’s got two youngish kids – under 12 – and she is the reason I agreed to do this myself.

I know if you’re my age, 35-45, you think…no. I don’t wanna. And I would be the first person to say…I get it. But listen to me now…if you love anyone in your life, a mom, a dad, a daughter, an aunt, you need to get this done. People are counting on you. It’s just a baseline. You won’t need to do this again for two, maybe even three years.

Does it hurt? I mean, squishing your boob one at a time between two plexiglass plates isn’t awesome but, it’s better than the alternative.

The tech who did my mammogram was efficient and funny. She was like…’Do you want to see your boobs?’ and I was like…’Yeah!’ I got to see what they look like in 3-D- which was pretty cool. At the end of the day, I can be a woman without my breasts, but I can’t be anything if I’m dead.

On my way out there was a woman sitting in one of these comfy chairs with no hair and a black hat. I used to wear a black hat too on my bald-head when I was 17 and I was struck by memories – she could have been me, twenty years ago. She was crying a little, into the phone. I wanted to reach out to her but, of course, I didn’t. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be okay.

I didn’t because, she was on the phone and she didn’t meet my eyes but I’m telling you, whoever you are that’s reading this…everything’s going to be okay. And knowing is always better than not knowing…trust me.

That’s it – this was pretty heavy but I know you can handle it…because you’re a woman, and you’ve handled plenty of harder things before this.

If you’re a man…I’m confused but stoked. Drop me a line and tell me how you found this post. Love you guys, eh!?


The Grand Experiment

A storm rolled through my town last night, around midnight. The tall Texas pine trees surrounding my house thrashed their tops, the lightening pulsed and the thunder barreled around like an oil drum caught in an empty swimming pool.
The rain running down the outside of the window made the back yard look warped, like I was looking at the world through a bent funhouse mirror.
The thought occurred to me, this is amazing. And then my next thought was, oh, but I should be sleeping. I checked on the kids – as usual they slept through the whole thing completely unaware of the chaos around them. Isn’t there something beautiful about checking on your kids while they sleep? They’re like angels, their soft round cheeks and delicate black eyelashes, their tiny chests rising and falling in rhythm. I can’t look at them sleeping and not feel my heart lift about ten feet out of my body.
I’m just so grateful for them. It’s easier to be grateful, isn’t it?  When they’re not whining, screaming, crying, and demanding you to ‘Pass me my water? Fast forward the commercial? Where are my apple slices I asked FIVE SECONDS AGO MOM!’ while you’re cooking a healthy three course dinner and doing the lesson plan for your next gardening/yoga class?
I digress.
The combination of an impressive storm last night, the solitude to enjoy it, no distractions or demands, filled my soul in a surprising way. It was a loud and crazy storm, after all.
Every once in awhile when I encounter something beautiful or captivating or serene I think, I’ll never forget this, ever. This is a miracle; this is what I came to earth to experience. This was on my pre-physical-human-being mind when I was out there in the womb of the universe, before I was even a spec in my own mother’s womb.
I’ve got two part time jobs I love, about 5-6 hours a week for both and I’m gunning for a third.
These jobs, unimpressive though they may seem to some, allow me to participate in the world and in the local economy and still have lots of time to enjoy my kids while they’re young, and to write when the muse bonks me over the head. It works for me.
I always assumed this was a temporary situation but, what if I can live my whole life this way? Only working those rare jobs that I am uniquely qualified for? Not worrying about how much money I’m making, just paying attention to how I feel while I’m working them.
What if I can feel exhilarated, connected, learning, growing, and loving what I’m doing…forever!? What if that means it’s never just that one dream job or career but a combination of them that each pulls from me different ways of experiencing my own personal growth?
To sum up, because you’ve only got a few minutes to yourself, whoever you are, what if I trusted myself, and trusted financial security always follows those who are engaged and enjoying it?
What if you don’t ‘find’ a happy life, you make it? Deliberately, joyfully, expecting miracles? If money comes, great, if not, it would be hard to argue a happy, fulfilled person out of a life they’ve created around their core values and desires, wouldn’t it?
I want to be that person! Doesn’t that sound amazing? Wish me luck, eh?
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” George Bernard Shaw.

Don’t Let the Muggles Get You Down

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…or at least a red Lexus in green Texas am I right!?

You guys, it’s the CHRISTMAS season! You know what that means! Hallmark movies in my pj’s while I sip cocoa and a fire crackles merrily in the fireplace and the tree sparkles with magic and Santa is gathering my favorite things!

You know, like a cherry-red Lexus, and diamond earrings, and that yoga trip to Hawaii I’ve been wanting. I’ve been a good girl all year Santa, come on!

Maybe things have changed a little since I was a kid, but I barely feel the years when I’m trimming the tree and baking apple pies and melting moments, listening to Ashanti’s Christmas, then Michael Buble’s Christmas, then Martina McBride’s Christmas.

BUT….this isn’t a blog entry about the real meaning of Christmas or the stress that comes from trying to pick the perfect gift for everyone from your mom to the kids soccer coach.

This…is a VACATION from real life.

Yessssssss.

I just finished the final tweaks on my fantasy manuscript and let me tell you…actually I’m pretty sure I remember finishing ‘final tweaks’ for the last three Christmas’ at least. Alright, alright, in all honesty, the last ten Christmas’. BUT, the eleventh year is the charm, isn’t that what they say? Yes, I believe it is.

Anyway I’m so jazzed up from writing about magic and elves and dreams coming true and crazy but beautiful villains that I’m going to just stay there in that warm and cozy place for a bit longer okay?

Cool.

So this year we’re staying in Texas for Christmas which means I get to roll down the windows on my new Lexus while wearing a rhinestone A&M T-shirt and sporting my sparkly diamond earrings on the way to the Woodlands Mall to pick out my new bikini to wear in Hawaii!

Okay just kidding – I’ve worn a bikini exactly once and that was on a trip to Mexico with Sarah and I was twenty…four? I’m not saying that was a loooong time ago because…this is my fantasy blog post vacationing from real life but lets just say…I need a new bikini. I’m not saying a BIGGER bikini, for afore-mentioned reasons.

Anyhoo…there’s lots of sad and serious things happening in the world, some I can do something about and a fair amount I can’t so…thanks for sharing in my fantasy blog-post, and don’t let the muggles get ya down, eh!?

After all, dreams can’t come true if you’re not dreaming them, and Christmas is MAGIC people, MAGIC…so now’s the time.

THINGS I DO NOW

Welcome to my third installment of…Things I Do Now

…checking for frogs in my bathroom before I go potty.
On three separate occasions I rushed into the bathroom to ah..powder my nose…before leaving to drop the kids at school and there was a tiny frog on the toilet lid.
Yes.
What they were doing there and why not to mention how…remains a mystery.
One was white and the size of my thumb. One was dark green and speckled like a snake and the size of my pointer knuckle. One was light green and also the size of my thumb. In each case they let me catch them quickly and carry them gently to the backyard where I let them go. Twice they got one tiny webbed hand free and rested it, damp and sticky, on my hand as I carried them. Sweet. I mean, gross, yeah, I washed my hands so so much after…but also sweet. 
Two weeks later and I’ve got two frogs in my garden, too. There they were, hopping right in front of me, one of them jumping into the side of my raised garden bed four times before he accepted he couldn’t jump over it. I like to think it’s the guys I rescued.
Luckily for me I’m a tom-boy through and through and have had years of practice catching and releasing frogs back into the mud where they’re happiest.
Other THINGS I DO NOW
Working. Turns out…its work. Crazy, right?
I am still ‘working’ on being compassionate with myself, that I’ve made a lot of changes in the last couple months and I need to give myself time to settle in, in my own way. 

From being at home full time to working three jobs, I’ve had a lot of changes to assimilate. Focusing on ensuring the kids feel secure and safe and settled has distracted me but now that they’re settling in, I’m trying to find my own path to secure, safe, and settled. Not to mention sleep.
I’ve had to say ‘no’ a few times so I can leave space for my family.
I’ve had to admit that I don’t agree with people instead of just pretending I do for the sake of getting along. I still don’t know if that’s the right path, I remember clearly every instance I took a deep breath and actually said my mind to someone I knew wasn’t going to like it. Maybethree times in my life. Yeah. It’s a problem.
So…in the interest of self development, I’m trying to be authentic. 

I’m trying to be honest. I’m not trying to change minds or hearts. I’m just trying to make sure my own voice is heard, because it’s the only one I’ve got, and I want to use it, and it’s what I want Ellie and Benji to do too. Even if that means some people don’t like me.
In the end what matters is that I want to live with my heart wide open, I want to be vulnerable and authentic because I want deeper connections in my life. I want more truth and less polite deference. Because if you miss a chance to be really open and honest with someone you care about or work with everyday, you miss a chance to be fully human. And I want all in.
So, anyway, that’s Things I Do Now.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Brene Brown – ‘Daring Greatly’

Dennis the Menace, High Fever Season and #Gardengeeking

First, for those of my buddies in Atlantic Canada – stay safe – don’t take chances, Dorian is nothing to mess around with. Ping us to keep us updated on facebook if you can.

For those of you not in it’s path and who want to help, you can donate to help those in the Bahamas by searching for ‘Bahamas-help’ and sticking to websites ending in .org or .gov. (Like https://donate.unicefusa.org)

And…on to my regularly scheduled blog…

I heard a quiet sort of gnawing sound coming from the leg of my kitchen table that’s been in the family for about a hundred years. I look past my salmon and rice and broccoli and see Duke, AKA Dennis the Menace, CHEWING my table leg.

I have no words.

Why is he doing this now? Why the table leg? What could he possibly get out of chewing varnished wood? Why is he staring at me while he chews? Does he WANT me to scream at him? WHAT IS THIS DOG’S PROBLEM!?!?

I have mostly resolved his other favorite game, you know, that complicated ‘Terrorize Toby’ game where he chases my poor old man around the house and nips at his back legs. So, thank you water bottle. I don’t even have to spray him anymore, I just wave it in front of him and he backs off.

Anyway, we’re all managing and Toby’s done his cold laser therapy so, there’s that silver lining.

My two and a half year old was sick this week, and I got to call in sick to my second day of work at my new job, which I was reluctant to do. He had a mild fever, around 100 when I picked him up from school on Thursday and it stayed around a 100 in the morning. I scheduled a doctor appointment just in case and it’s good I did because the doctor confirmed an ear infection and that night he spiked a fever of 105. I kid you not.

One. Hundred. And. Five. My five year old was crying because I wasn’t staying with her until she fell asleep and my two year old is burning up with a fever so high I have concerns, valid concerns, about his brain overheating.

I stripped the sheets from him to cool him down, Tylenol, Advil, cold compresses and prayers and 45 minutes later he was down to 101. Scariest 45 minutes of my life, at least since the last time he had a high fever/ran into a parking lot/banged his head on the window/tripped over a toy and bumped his head/stuck his fingers in a strange dog’s mouth…I digress. 

Little guy is down to a 98.6 all day today and acting like his normal self. He bounces back so quick it could give you whiplash, thank goodness.

And now to the point of this whole blog…getting the garden ready for fall!

In Texas our seasons are reversed and NOW is the time to clean out what has died during our drought of a summer and plan for the new year!

Oh the wonderful feeling of a fresh, clean garden with new topsoil mixed lovingly with compost, all my drip lines arranged and buried, ahhh what satisfaction! #gardengeek. 

Weirdly my Basil is propagating and loving the heat – way past their expiration date – other than that and some roses and blueberry bushes and of course my old-man Oregano patch that’s been there since we moved here, the garden is bare and waiting to be filled! We’re planting radishes and beets in a week, then lima beans and peas. It. Is. Going. To. Be. Awesome!



My daughter and I planted pumpkin seeds today, and she asked me, “Am I gardening!?”

And I laughed and said, “Yes!”

She grinned, and I grinned, and I realized another wonderful plus to being a gardener, your kids get to play in the dirt with you. How fun is that?

Hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. Alfred Austin 


THIS IS MY LIFE NOW! Or, Change Your Life, Change the World.

Welcome to the first installment of ‘this is my life now’!

I’ll run this whenever I stop and realize my life is once again a rollicking comedy of errors. So, at least once a month.
This month I’ve been training for a new job, working at a church preschool. The hours are perfect; I’m at work while Ellie is at school. All our days off will be the same and no need to worry about summer care. I’m living the dream folks.
Alright and I just have to say, I am really enjoying all the adulting. I show up twenty minutes early as per my usual overachiever routine and it takes me that long to get to the classroom because I stop to talk to everyone I see on the way in. 

Those. Poor. People. They are so, so sweet. (At least to my face ha ha)

I just gab and gab and GAB. It’s like all the words I haven’t said in the last five years home alone with the kids have been stored away in my jawbone somewhere and it has all just come spewing out like hot lava from a raging volcano. 

Again, condolences to my new co-workers…
But oh, the BLISS of a conversation that doesn’t involve why we shouldn’t eat our own boogers and why it isn’t okay to pick up the dogs poop with our bare hands. 

So nice!
I’ve been decorating the classroom, filling the ‘manipulatives’ bin, putting up the ‘Mat Man’ – learning a whole new vernacular, FUN, FUN, FUN!
Not to mention playing with the toys while I clean and organize them. I cleared out a twelve-foot tall cabinet crammed full of books going every which way yesterday. I took them all out and organized them by author, theme, and size. Oh my little ‘ole heart was SO FULL IT ALMOST BURST! So satisfying.
Do I feel immense and inconsolable guilt about leaving Benji in someone else’s care all day while he’s still so little? Yes. Did he walk into the classroom and forget to say goodbye today because he’s totally fine and loving it? Yes. 

Did I get offered a second part time job at their school too? Yes. Did I take it? 

I get paid to hang out with babies and my own kids all day? Where’s the dotted line to sign, lady!?
So, we all know I just adopted a shelter dog a few weeks ago, add to that two new part time jobs (plus the kids yoga classes on Sunday mornings) and the following was bound to happen:
I took out salmon to eat last night for dinner but it didn’t thaw in time (thank you only getting home at 3pm because of Toby’s laser therapy). 

Oh yes. Toby’s herniated disks. Let’s throw that into the mix plus two new medications to give him to keep track of. (We’re having fun now my friends).

Back to the salmon. It did not thaw in two hours, surprise, surprise. I could risk it but there’s no rice because I haven’t had time to get more. I switch to leftover chicken and potatoes, proud of my multitasking, resourceful ways. I open the Tupperware of chicken and potatoes and Benji calls from the bathroom. Mommy…mooooommmmyyyy!

He’s done number two and needs help. (Wheee).

As I go into the bathroom he drops his flashlight into the poopy toilet water. I have plastic gloves nearby, something I’m proud I remembered to do last time I was cleaning. So I quickly snap on the gloves, fish out the flashlight and put it in the garbage (no amount of bleach on earth is going to save that thing now). 

I clean up Benji, console him (He’s in hysterics over the lost flashlight and wants to go get another one RIGHT NOW.) Once he realizes I’m not going to the store RIGHT NOW, he calms down and we go into the living room in time to see Duke, on top of the kitchen counter island, lapping up the chicken.
“DUKE! DOWN RIGHT NOW!” 

Duke whips his little Chihuahua head up so fast and the look on his face is so surprised I burst out laughing. He leaps gracefully like a hundred tigers are in his genome and lands softly on the floor. Then he gives me the ‘what?’ look and nonchalantly licks his paw.
I’m agape. And out of supper options.
I order in sushi and call it a day. I’m not proud anymore about having it all together but…we’re fed and clean and everyone has poo’d and what more can a mom ask?

I changed my life by going back to work and mostly I love the crunch, the speed, the need to organize suppers and lunches and clothes in advance. I needed this. We needed this. And who knows, maybe I’ll spark a love of learning in those little hearts that last a lifetime. You can’t put a price tag on that.  
If your life changes, we can change the world, too. Yoko Ono

That Chihuahua Lady or, Apologizing to Twelve Year Old Me


That Chihuahua Lady. This is what I will henceforth be known as. 

When you have one Chihuahua mix you can say, well, he was small and I was in an apartment and people go, oh, okay, well that makes sense. (Because what kind of wimp in their right mind WANTS a shivering little cat-dog?) But when you have two…the gig is up.

How did this happen you may ask. Recently I signed up to do short term fostering with the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Duke was my first foster. I don’t know if it was the worried look in my eye (how big will the dog be?) or the two tiny toddlers I had behind me, sniffling and clutching my thighs in an effort to keep me as close to them as possible.  Maybe it was the crazy short hair or the ‘BETO’ t-shirt I was wearing.

Whatever it was, the young woman showing me the short term fosters cocked her head to the side and veered away from the door we were going to go through and down the hall to the ‘new intake’ room. A few seconds later she came out with the most pathetic looking ball of tan fur I’d ever laid eyes on. He was all brown eyes and tiny cat paws and shaking all over.

Inside I was like…another tiny, timid little dog, just what I need. But outside I was like..’ohmygosh he’s so sweet yes, we’ll foster this guy!’ Sometimes I’m a mystery even to myself.

So the next day we go back to get the little guy, to foster, you understand, and as soon as I got him in my hands he sighed, leaned up against my chest and laid his head around the curve of my neck, just like Toby did eleven years ago.

Guys, I didn’t even make it to the van and I turned around and snagged the nearest worker and said, no. No, he’s mine, and he’s coming home with me forever. Today. Now.

And they said…no.

Inside I cried like a baby girl but you know I’m a big girl on the outside so after pleading and begging like a full grown TODDLER I relented. We came back the next day and the rest is history.

Two things happened when we got him home. One – during a full out tantrum where Benji is kicking and screaming way too close to the hot stove where I’m cooking spaghetti, Duke, just with us for twelve hours at this point, walked right over and sat next to him and let him pet him in that rough, I-can’t-watch way a two year old does.

And then he laid down on Benji’s tummy and Benji calmed down instantly. 

Two – he’s only two but his favorite thing to do is hang out on the couch and watch movies with us, or hang out on the patio watching the ‘bigger dogs ‘- my two kids – run around on their new ATV’s like crazy people in 100 degree heat. Sigh. He’s perfect. So. I’m going to man up and admit what I am…That Chihuahua Lady. 

Da, forgive me. Twelve year old me who imagined a house full of tame wolves and Huskies and Great Danes and Golden Retrievers, to you most of all I offer my humblest and sincerest apologies. But hey we still eat ice cream for dinner sometimes so…there’s that.

Magnum 357’s and Other Things I Talk about Now

“Does the gun bother you? Really?”
Asks my incredulous UBER driver about the 357 magnum she has in the driver’s console. I stare at the hard gray plastic, envisioning the gun resting inside.
Safety on? Maybe. Loaded? Definitely.
I look back up at her, age indeterminate but based on the amount of gray in her hair and the desert sand cracks in her face I’m guessing she’s a hard living fifty-five.
“That depends,” I say. “How often do you practice?”
“Practice?”
“Yeah, at the gun range. How often do you practice?”
“Well I’ll tell you the last few times I went I shot, you know, not right at the head per say but the guy there told me he’d be dead for sure. Ah, not that, I mean, I’m a good Christian woman I wouldn’t want to kill anyone.”
“So, you’ve been at the range in the last month?”
Silence.
“The last two or three months?”
“If I want to hit the target I will,” she says with that steely defiance of a woman with her guard up. She won’t meet my eyes in the rearview mirror anymore.
Based on the rainbow band on her sun visor holding in the tickets to an old Lady Ga Ga concert ticket, and based on the length of her hair, shorter than my father who is bald, I’m assuming she’s gay. She confirms it later when she talks about her partner, Doris. Being gay in Texas, that earns some respect. It takes guts to be gay in Texas.
I soften my approach.
“Here’s my only problem,” I say, and I launch into my ‘I-grew-up-with-guns’ speech that always puts gun carriers at ease and lets them know I’m not judging.
“My only problem is that people carry around these loaded guns and never practice. And never practice the way police practice in the academy, simulating real-world situations where your adrenaline is going at least a little. If you’re going to carry a gun, you should be at the range at least once a month. And certainly not…never.”
She nods. She sees my point. We move to safer ground, the pros and cons of UBER verses Lyft.
            So, to her question, did I feel unsafe? No, not really. If she really needed that gun she probably wouldn’t have time to open the console to get it, and even if she did, she’s more likely to shoot herself in the foot than anyone around her. Not that she didn’t seem capable, but if you aren’t practicing it, and you never know what it’s like to have to fire when your nervous system is in panic mode, odds are you’re going to be wildly ineffective.
            The problem isn’t nice old gay ladies with magnum 357’s who drive strangers around town for a living. The problem is the culture that tries to sell her safety lies in the barrel of a gun. It doesn’t. Period. 
            In any case we spent the rest of the time having a lively and hilarious discussion about a question brought up by a book I just read ‘What do we need men for?’ by E. Jean Carroll. After all, I’ve always found what links us together far more fun then what divides us, eh? That isn’t just the Canadian in me, that’s the human in me. I gave her a good tip and jumped out at my destination, a steakhouse in Hughes Landing. What a semi-vegetarian is doing at an expensive Texas steakhouse is for another time okay? No one has time to read more than four hundred words at a time.

Exciting and Terrifying Beginnings

Alright alright I know it’s been awhile. I haven’t dropped the ball I promise I’ve just been juggling other balls while I kept this one tucked under my chin.
It’s time to release the ‘blog’ ball once again. Let it fly!
Let me tell you right off I’m in Canada (yippie!). The flight here was as wondrous and glorious as air travel can be with a five year old and a two year old and a tiny dog. No one threw up, no one did number two in their underwear, the dog waited until we landed to have diarrhea so all in all it was perfect.
First night here we all crashed hard after some home made chicken noodle soup (thanks dad!) and the second night the universe tried to kill me.
It all started with the alarm clock Benji had been playing with during the day. It went off at three pm and I turned it off, eventually. I had a nagging thought I should probably just unplug it but I’m still learning to trust my own instincts. (How old are you again?)
Old enough to know better. At 13 minutes after midnight the alarm clock blared to life and I was in Ben’s room and pulling the plug from the wall before I woke up. Once I did wake up I realized I was holding the top part of the cabinet (which was sitting prettily on top of the chest of drawers) and every single precious breakable thing mom owned had slid and shattered on the floor at my bare feet. It, too, was sliding slowly to the floor except that I was holding it up with my shoulder.
“Um. Bill?”
Bill, having heard the alarm go off but was resting comfortably in the knowledge that I would get there faster being both younger and quicker, heard the crash and reached for his glasses.
Benji sat up bleary eyed in his bed and miraculously didn’t cry and didn’t try to run to me over the glinting shards of glass bears and figurines scattered on the floor.
“BILL!?” by now Bill had gotten his glasses on, carefully pulled his feet from the tangled sheets and walked to me.
I’m not struggling because I’m like She-Ra from carrying around Benji’s 31 pound frame all day. I waited patiently as he flicked on the light and surveyed the damage. Then he stepped in glass in his bare feet all the way to me to put up the falling hutch. How he didn’t get any cuts on his feet is beyond me. He was very, very careful.
We put it back on top of the dresser and stared around us in amazement. “Where do I start?” I remember saying. Bill looked at me mutely. Bill may be in management but I’m the boss in situations like these and I ordered him about like a general.
“Take Benji to your room. I need shoes. Shut the door behind you. I’ll clean it up.”
And I did. From 12:13 to 12:45am I swept and carefully placed large broken bear bums and Precious Moments heads into the blue plastic garbage can.
When I was done Bill wandered back in and shook out the mat onto the floor and then went back to bed.
I don’t know if he went back to sleep but I laid awake for two hours waiting for the adrenaline to dissipate.
Anyway, that was the exciting and terrifying beginning to my Canadian vacation.
While I was overthinking everything after the incident I thought maybe this was a good analogy for life. Sometimes everything precious to you (or to your mom) gets shattered in a random, unexpected way. You may be left in the middle of your wreckage of a life and wonder what the blazes to do next.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re looking at the whole picture. I am speaking from experience, and not just in regards to the broken figurines.
Luckily all we ever need to do is the next step, and then the next. It’s terribly simple and yet so hard to do. But if you can allow your monkey-brain panic-thoughts to fall away and focus on what needs to be done right now, I think everything will be okay.  At least, that’s what I believe.

Or maybe the trick is to eat a lot of lobster and home made spice cake. I’ll try that too, just in case.
Sometimes it takes a good fall to really know where you stand. Hayley Williams.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Also, SAHM Survival Guide eh?

Happy Almost Mother’s Day!

Have you called your mother lately!? I call my mom so much she’s like…sweetie I love you but maybe stop calling me more than five times a morning while I’m at work?

In any case, it’s time for an episode of…SAHM Survival Guide eh?
The anxious stay at home mom (or dad) survival guide. The antsy stay at home mom (Or dad…you get the idea) survival guide? The full of self-doubt stay at home mom survival guide?
What I’m aiming for this week:
1) Staying calm in the face of tantrums and chaos. Keeping my sense of humor when Benji is screaming and tearing off his pants and throwing them in the dog’s water bowl and now the dog is really thirsty and Ellie is needing some quiet cuddle time on the couch and we are already ten minutes late for school.
2) Keeping my own joy and balance in my life, and in that vein staying healthy not just physically but emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and socially. Let’s face it, we’re complex beings full of layers of wants and needs and desires and they can’t all be fulfilled staying home with the kids all day, every day. A good life needs change, and growth, and room to expand. And a reliable babysitter! And, really, a nana and papa close by.
3) Letting go of my desire to control their relationship with each other. I want them to build a close relationship, one that they will both learn to treasure and count on now, tomorrow and twenty, thirty years down the road. I’m learning to surrender my referee compulsions and let them work it out on their own.
4) Disabusing myself of the notion that a good parent is an anxious parent, one who has worried about and foreseen every difficulty and planned and arranged to have them all systematically removed for them. Wow even writing this I am realizing how much I do this and how much it needs to stop, like, right now.
I do NOT have all the answers. I have found a few that work for me, and I’m willing and able to write about it, and willing and able to put myself out there and share my hopes. My desire is that this connects with other SAHM’s out there. Or anyone, really, who struggles to care for another person and still maintain their own identity.
Let’s leave you with some action plans, yeah?
1)   Begin the morning consciously, whether that’s reading a bible passage or praying or meditating or even just laying out the day the way you want it to go. Then forgiving yourself when you can’t because the baby has jumped up into bed with you at 530am wired for sound or your dog throws up on your pillow. And then sits in it. And then licks your face until the lovely doggy-puke-breath odor rouses you. I can’t make this stuff up people.
2)   You need a physical action plan you can do at least three times a week. It can be an expensive gym, or your bike, or your own two legs. It can be swimming or climbing a rock wall, it can be with the kids or without but you need it. Your body needs it. Heck your brain needs it. Exercising lowers your risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s/Dementia and depression. Boom, boom, boom. You don’t just want to be around when your own kids have kids, you want to be healthy and active able to enjoy them. Don’t forget to forgive yourself when you skip the yoga class to work on a poem about working out instead sometimes. (Who does that!? Me. I do.)
That’s it folks, some concerns I’ve had I’m sure I’m not alone in, and some action plans I’m putting together for myself to have my best life possible.
Really lastly, if you’re a stay at home mom and you can’t fit in an exercise routine easily try this neat trick that works for me. Start doing 5 pushups a day. Then drop and do 5 pushups whenever you think of doing pushups. Maybe not in HEB but if no one’s around and you’re not in the middle of a parking lot…go for it. It adds strength amazingly quickly and the fast progress you make encourages you to go for ten, then fifteen pushups a day. Just in time for sleeveless shirt weather. You’re welcome. Now go forth and drop and give me five people, your shoulders, and your future grandkids, will thank me.
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