Monday, October 27, 2014

If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy...

As a mom, a partner who works outside the home, and a fixer, a regular frustration of my daily life is seeing something in myself that needs tweaking, but feeling absolutely unequal to the challenge of doing anything about it. There's always something else that needs to be done to distract me from the hard work of being human. It's one of the reasons this blog is such a gift to me. I can write down my impressions, chew on them for months, and they'll still be there to remind me of my journey when I have the [insert: time/energy/attention span/faith/balls] to deal with them.

Yes, I did say faith-slash-balls. You heard it here, folks. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?!

Anyway, I'm up in the middle of the night to write this because it finally feels important enough that I'm willing to drop a ball (the sleep ball, not one of the aforementioned balls), to get it down. Things to note: this is not Gospel, science, or a panacea for the world's ills. Nor am I the first person ever to have a personal revelation. I hope and pray that nothing I put out here ever comes off as if I think that way. My goal is simply to come to terms with said world and my place in it, in hopes of becoming who I believe God intends me to be on this side of Heaven--fits, starts, warts, forks in the road, and all.

Ok, I'm done laying the ground work. Thank you for waiting so patiently.

As I said, I work outside the home. I'm also a mom, a sister, a friend, a woman with interests and an identity, and a partner to another human being, with his own list of stuff to manage, too. And this shit is hard. Hard, like I didn't even know, hard. On a good day, I feel like I'm constantly playing catch up and serving up leftovers to my entire life. On a bad day? It's takeout all the way, baby.

It rarely feels like I'm giving my best anywhere, but some moments stand out more than others. At one point last week I looked around and discovered that it had been days since W and I had connected in a meaningful way. The Bud was particularly clingy and defiant. I realize at 3 that it's part of his job description to be that way in general, but this was to the level that showed me he wasn't getting enough attention. There were takeout cartons and frozen pizza boxes everywhere, dinosaurs and guitar picks on the floor, and a pair of poopy Justice League undies was soaking in the bathroom sink. For hours? For days? Had we been brushing our teeth with the sink like that??? I don't even care. I had worked late every night and it wasn't safe to walk to the bathroom to pee in the dark. I was pissed about it and looking for something, someone, to blame. And when I found them, heads would roll.

That's when I realized, I'd found my culprit. As per usual, it was me all along. I hadn't practiced any type of self-care so I got overwhelmed by the things that didn't matter. You see, I believe the only important detail in my tale of woe is that my crappy attitude about the hand I was dealt last week had affected the quality of my interaction with my loved ones. I forgot that taking a moment of silence--to regroup, to unwind, and to remember that my family and friends aren't items to check off on my To Do list--is so important. Not just for me, but for them, too. If I haven't decompressed from the rigors of the day, that's going to spill over negatively into my home life. Now, I had my reasons to be on edge all week and yes, they are all valid. Please, oh please, you gorgeous SAHMs, and WAHMs, and WOTHMs (Lord, save us from our acronyms!), and any other blessed female who has ever drunk the you-are-less-than-and-must-try-harder Koolaid, know that I do not judge you if you struggle in this way, too. I believe that you're doing your best, and I'm damned proud of you. You give it all out every day and you do it beautifully. You don't need to be anything more than you are to those who love and need you right now. You are enough. I'm saying, that on this day, on my journey, I need to be careful about what I bring home to my people.

So I did an experiment. I took deep, cleansing breaths on my drive home. I stopped slamming doors and sighing over messes. I led with hugs and kisses, and howwasyourdayImissedyous. I made eye contact and said with those same eyes, "You matter. I'm so lucky to love you, and all this hard work? It's for you." I read twenty thousand stories and tickled and cuddled. I watched Godzilla and A Million Ways to Die in the West (sort of). I went to laugh with friends and to dance at our church picnic. Nothing got done. The house is still a wreck. I have to get back on the hamster wheel tomorrow. But it mattered. We laughed and loved a lot this weekend amid the chaos, and it was so good. Because, like it says in the country song we all know and maybe wish we didn't, and as dirty as it makes me feel to quote it, when mama ain't happy? Ain't nobody happy.

Who I bring home matters. It matters a lot.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Best Gift I Never Wanted

I vaguely remember the day. It was October 6 and I was 5 years old. My bag was packed and I was sent to Grandma's, one of my favorite places to be, for a week. My mom and dad were staying home to enjoy their last night of relative peace and quiet before our new baby was born. I was excited, and a bit nervous. I had seen babies before, but never had one living with me, so this was an adventure. I had ordered a boy. It seemed like a good choice: someone I could run around with, digging up worms and "saving" baby birds, but not having to share clothes or my favorite girly toys. I felt pretty confident that I'd get a brother, too. My mom hadn't specifically promised that she could deliver the goods, but in my experience with her leaving home and coming back with stuff, more often than not she managed to return with, if not specific things I'd requested, at least things that ultimately satisfied me.
The next afternoon, my Aunt Debbie showed up to take me to meet my new sibling. She smiled at me while she loaded me into the car and said, "You have a new baby sister, Mickey-Boom! She's so cute. You'll love her." There's nothing hazy about my recollection of that moment. My memory is crystal clear. I thought, "Wait. A girl??? But, I ASKED for a boy!!" I probably would've cussed if I'd known any bad words at the time.
For most of the next 15 years, she was a royal pain in my ass.
Don't get me wrong, the first few years (before I had any personal responsibility for or to her) were great. She was like a cute new toy that smelled nice, and smiled at me whenever I talked to her. She did all kinds of tricks--rolled over, laughed out loud, sat up, toddled around, talked baby talk, and made this adorable snuffling face when fed something she particularly liked.
But after the New Baby Smell wore off, it was a whole, 'nother story. She cried all the time. She always wanted stuff that belonged to me. She made messes, borrowed my socks without permission, demanded my attention constantly, and always got hurt on my watch. To add insult to injury, my parents started requiring me to act like a Big Sister. They asked me to be a positive influence on the girl and to set a good example for her. To take her places when I went. To take blame when we did something wrong. To protect her from all comers. Me. I hadn't even wanted her, and all of a sudden, I'm responsible for her??? It was categorically unfair, and for years, I fought it.
I fought her attempts to get close to me, to get all up in my space, to get my attention.  To get me to love her, basically. I did love her in that mechanical "because you're family," sort of way, but in all our years together, I never really let myself get to know her, so it was more of a requirement than a choice.
I didn't really learn to appreciate her until I went away to college, when I looked past the years of tattling, clothes stealing, and bed hogging, and was able to see the incredible person she is. Once I actually paid attention to her, I realized how much she had to teach me. In the years since, I've learned so much from my sweet Sissie.
I've learned to choose laughter. My Sissie is hilarious. Anywhere she is, it's usually a party. I used to get annoyed when we'd go places and get stopped 20 times by people who wanted to talk to her, but I've since come to terms with it: she's everybody's favorite, and I get it. It's rare that I spend time with her or talking to her when I don't laugh myself sick, helpless tears streaming down my face. She helps me take my life (and myself) less seriously, and to laugh at the ridiculous I see in every day things.
I've learned to forgive. She has this supple heart with a seemingly unlimited capacity for forgiveness. People who I would've written off years ago, she gives the benefit of the doubt--not just once, but over and over again. I've been on the receiving end more times than I'm proud of, but feel so relieved and lucky each time she lets me off the hook for whatever idiot thing I said or did.
I've learned to pay attention. It's the quiet ones you've gotta watch out for. It took a while for me to catch on, but I know now that she holds all of her pain in her eyes. It's easy to miss it if you get distracted by her humor, her bustle, and her smile, so you've got to watch her closely. I haven't always been very careful with the feelings of others, but learning how to treat her gently and well makes me better.
I've learned to show up for those I love, no matter what. My Sissie is ride-or-die, and not just when it's convenient for her. She's been there for me for every success, failure, and loss. When my heart was broken, she drove 2 hours in the middle of the night to sleep in my bed with me, so I wouldn't be alone. After she went back home, I slept on her side of the bed for days, comforted by her scent that she'd left on the pillow. When my (our) baby boy was born too early and I was so sick in the hospital, she drove that same 2 hours every day for three days to sleep at the foot of my bed, until he was born and she knew we would both be okay. The magnesium sulfate they gave me to keep me from having a stroke had me so blissed out of my mind that I don't remember much of that week in 2011, but her presence I remember very clearly.
I'll always be there for her, not just because she's always been there for me, but because she deserves to feel as loved and as grounded as she's made me feel all these years. No matter how many pairs of my socks she still has.
Happy birthday, Sissie. Here's to another year. Love you!!! xoxo
My Sissie and Me--she's the one with the eyes. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Monthly Musings, The Penis Edition: September 2014

Oh, September, you done me wrong...I'm so happy I don't have to see you again for 11 months. Right now, I'm doing a back handspring into a double "eff you," that's how glad I am to see you go. You were tough on me. I lost a family member, a new friend of mine lost her father, and one of The Bud's new classmates (also 3 years old) lost his Mommy. My own grief, and what I witnessed of the grief of others, brought me face to face with my own mortality. I wasn't ready for all that.You were a month of hard conversations, uncomfortable revelations, confusion, doubt, and the indisputable fact that life is just so hard, sometimes. A lot of the times. Maybe most of the times. I'm over you, you craptastic month.

I started 6 posts in September that I couldn't find the words to finish. The fog is lifting, so I'm hopeful that as I revisit each one, I'll be able to work through what my heart wants to say and that there will be something worth sharing with you all in this shiny, new month of October. The following post from the September archives has no depth or eternal value whatsoever, which is why I'm posting it, first. Enjoy!
Disclosure: This post is almost entirely about penises or people who have them. If you are in any way squeamish about the word penis or discussions thereof, do not read any further. If, out of morbid curiosity, you decide to ignore your better judgement and continue reading, only to find yourself disgusted, repulsed, shocked, and dismayed, remember that I did warn you. You have only yourself to blame for whatever sleep you lose after this moment. Xoxoxo!
• Being a mama to a little boy, I've come to terms with a general penis-fixation in my household. It started with his circumscision and went straight to the gutter from there. We've been either at war with or acting in the direct interest of our son's special purpose since the moment of his birth, when he peed all over the surgical staff in the delivery room. We can't escape it. I've accepted it. He's got us beat. #outnumbered #wheninRome
• The other week, The Bud was playing while wearing only undies, and his penis slipped out of the slit in his shorts. He wouldn't stop talking about it. He demanded that we each look and acknowledge (with as much dignity as we could muster) that yes, it was sticking out, yes, it was "really tall," and YES, the appropriate thing was to push it back into his shorts and commence playing with trains. #dontphasemenone
• Dear God: can we talk about penises and potty training for a sec? Not to criticize Your design or anything, but it seems like having one's favorite minor appendage waving at half mast while you're trying to master pooping in the potty is an unnecessary distraction. My kid certainly can't handle it. Would it be feasible to have their members drop after they've been trained? No need to decide right now. Lemme know later what you think...
• I just survived a mostly solo sick kid weekend when W was working. It was brutal, and culminated in a Sunday night trip to the grocery store that I most emphatically did NOT want to take. When I dragged my downtrodden body home, I was rubbernecked and waved at by two college guys in an F150. That helped. #donthate #istillgotit
• In the checkout line at the grocery store, my checker accidentally rang up a couple items on my bill that belonged to the guy behind me. I noticed one of them was Pedialyte popsicles. In a show of sick-kid solidarity, I half-jokingly offered to pay for them anyway. Poor guy, he was probably as frazzled as I was...Then he informed me that he did not, in fact, have a sick kid at home. He ate them all the time, he said. "They're great for hangovers." #nevermind #youreonyourownskipper
• Was it was Benjamin Franklin who said, "Every father hopes his son grows up to have a bigger penis than his own?" #onlythebestforjunior #thatsjustgoodparenting