Bangs or Nah

June 8, 2017

There is so much more than meets the eye re: cutting bangs or not. The main reason I want to do it: I’m bored with the current do. However, this doesn’t exactly justify the action, as this happens in a predictable pattern. Do I really want to commit to HAVING TO style hundreds or thousands (depending on the boldness of the cutter) of strands every day?

On the other hand, they are super cute with a pony tail. An extra accessory.

However, you can’t get away with skipping many hair washes. Somehow, the oils show up to call you out more.

That being said, bangs promote hygiene. You shower more. Or, at least wash the head more.

Then again, the pure agony of regularly scheduled bang trims at your local hair cuttery. Particularly after you attempted the job yourself and feed the inquiring stylist the story that your son got a hold of them while you weren’t “looking”.

Then there’s the problem of being told you look like a young child.

But, that may not be such a problem as more and more grey hairs decide to sprout right out the top of your head.

I’ve also been cautioned by trendy hairdressers that bangs should be reserved for the fall.

Eh, who am I kidding. I’ve never been a trendsetter.

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You are Running Late, & Still, You Must Parent

March 28, 2017

You are running SO LATE. Attempting to get out of the door with a two year old who vehemently believes the world runs on his schedule is a nearly impossible task. Out the door. The phrase may be simplistic to the naïve ear, but it goes so much deeper than that.

Wake him up (pacify his screams at 4:30 AM).

Feed him breakfast (timeout x 3 for throwing his food).

Get him dressed (chase him around the now cursed jack-n-jill style bedroom/bathroom and listen patiently as he explains “I don’t want that shirt” to every one you pull out).

Run after him with socks and shoes with a sing-song voice “socks and shoes, socks and shoes, we’re going to put on our socks and shoes”. He watches you amused, his sensory organs in pain.

Prepare his lunch, milk bottles, nap time accessories. Throw a sweatshirt on him because last time he had to borrow for outside playtime and you don’t want another nastygram.

Recognize that you have found the secret to the age-old question of how to slow down time with your child: watch him as he practices walking his “mow-mow” back to the car from the other side of the yard while you wait for him to climb into his car seat WITHOUT having a meltdown that it’s time to go.

Arriving at school, it seems you have nearly crossed the finish line. Together, you put away his milk and lunch (in the room that states “no children in here”) and make the way to his classroom door. A saving grace is that he loves to practice opening the door, which makes him excited to go in. Once inside, he is greeted by at least two little boys that are his playtime friends. You excuse yourself and go to put away his backpack. You happen to glance back at the exact time your child is exercising his non-right to lay a kid out, shoving him. Apparently, the wounded took one too many steps into his personal space too early in the morning. We understand, child. But you can’t lay out your friend. Especially at school. Others are watching.

You brace yourself for the extra ten minute of parenting that was not budgeted for. And by the way, these moments of teaching important fundamentals feel so “fake it ‘til you make it”. We see the issue and clearly understand we are required to intervene, but do we know what we’re doing? No. All we know that at moment is we want our child to grow from what just happened.

As you talk to your son about his frustration (I get it bud, work and school stink sometimes, but we don’t hurt our friend because of it. Would you like him to shove you?), you notice the friend that has been wronged is patiently loitering a safe distance away. Standing there with his hands together, he is waiting for an apology. He looks sad and hopeful at the same time.

Nothing you are saying is working to get your son to relinquish an apology. He stands there, head down, pouty lip. Another mother had entered. The teacher is waiting. You feel your audience growing by the second, waiting to see if you qualify for motherhood. Deep breaths. Remember this is only about helping your son understand how to be a good human.

The next statement is the winner: “Look at him. Do you see how sad he is? He is hoping you will say sorry so you can play together.” The little boy had the sweetest and most unsure face in in the world. That hidden face of adulthood that we have when we are hurt or upset by someone, hopeful that they will recognize it and talk to us about it. But we don’t show the honest toddler face. We seem to try on a meaner face, a more defensive face. A face that tries to say “You don’t bother me” when we really look just like the little boy on the inside. Sad and hopeful that the other kid will do the right thing. The walking wounded.

Your son suddenly moves out of your arms and runs to the offended, embracing him in a hug and exclaiming “Sowwy!”

They run off, and grab a few trucks to roll back and forth across the classroom to make the most of unstructured play time before circle hour. You stand, and silently thank God that your child has the capacity to humble himself and to love.

You leave, happy. Not ecstatic that you were an additional ten minutes late but happy because of what was witnessed. You have been reminded of a sacred lesson. How to behave towards one another, and how to be brave and say when we are wrong. Look at the person across from you, it will tell you everything you need to know. If their face tells you it’s time to say sorry, just say it. And see what happens. Both parties run off into the day, at peace.  It is so much better that way.

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This One’s for the Tall Girls

March 23, 2017

 

I am like you. We were provided with bodies that grew and grew, and then, grew some more. We stood towering over the boys who picked teams for kickball in the fifth grade. We subconsciously learned poor posture, slumping over to appear shorter to fit in to our pack of friends. Our tall girl bodies are ignorant (or, unconcerned) of the statistic that the average American female height is much shorter.

The pre-teen years were a comedic display of confusion for a tall girl. A constant reminder of “Don’t worry, your body will catch up with your feet.” There we stood, with full sets of braces, stiff bangs (so heavy with Aquanet hairspray, they could survive nuclear warfare), flat chests, and lanky frames. A raunchy entrance into the world of adolescence.

As typical teenage girls, we cared about fitting in. We would attempt to ignore the height factor but when friends would remark that they finally hit the triple digits in weight, we internally wondered about obesity. We were in the 100+ club years before they were creeping 85. Our hearts cringed when we overheard the boys describe tall girls as “beasts”. Was that us? It required a rethink of our favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast, because we no longer identified with Belle, but more so, the hairy, huge monster!

We did look forward to the annual back to school shopping spree, despite the inevitable clothing woes that accompany 70 inches of hormonal body tissue. My parents allotted each of us four children a certain budget to select the wardrobe of our choice. I was devastated when my mom vetoed the bold flower statement dress inspired by the movie “Clueless”, with the thigh-high stockings to match. It was entirely too short on me. Woe to you, tall torso. If we can’t be like Cher, we don’t want to be at all.
Finding jeans that fit correctly was a major struggle. The term “highwater” may very well have been generated specifically from our junior high clothing expeditions. The problem lay in the sizing – what fit up top, landed short down below. If we wished to wear a pair of jeans that appropriately landed ½ an inch above our heel – and not any higher based on cool girl standards of the day – it would require us to result to the big girl department, or, special order our size with “extra length”. There should be a tax deduction for tall girls who must chronically order extra length in fabric.
As the years went on and our bodies (questionably) caught up with our feet, we began hearing the phrase “How tall are you?” Do people not understand one does pick up the emphasis placed on are? As if they are offended that we can see the top of their heads.
Which brings us to the question that needs to be addressed immediately. A question that we, as tall girls, are asked repeatedly, should we commit this unspeakable social offense.
“Why are you wearing heels?”
Our faces contort into the initial reaction of “..And why are you asking me that?” We then attempt a smile cover up, but it’s too late. They have seen our disappoint, our discomfort. The person typically follows up with a placating “You are already so tall!” or “Now I’m even shorter than you!” They then feel the desire to physically demonstrate that, even on their tippy toes, they do not reach our chins.
We have now been successfully displayed as circus freaks. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but it is the way it tends to make us feel. When we spot an overtly short person, do we comment on their height? Crouch down like we are proposing marriage to show just how much shorter they are? “Look, I’m on my knees and still taller than you! You are so short!”
Shall we walk up to the elderly and mention just how close to death they may be?
“Hi Clarence. Are you aware that today could be the day?”
The answer is no! We don’t comment on the differences in their physical appearance because it’s just plain rude.
We have been told there are positive aspects to our height. Some, we will not refute. Like the simple joy of gaining 5 pounds. It apparently “spreads out” more along our frames. Which has led us to believe that a ten+ pound weight gain over the holidays is acceptable practice for women over the 5’7’’ mark. We don’t mean to discriminate here, but society has provided this permission.
Here’s a great one:
“You will have tall children!” Really? My kid is in the 65th percentile for height and consistently remains >99th percentile for head girth, which was also true before he exited the womb (thanks, bud).
It fares well for all that we don’t reciprocate these comments back onto society. For instance, the annoyance of our younger years when we spotted a short woman with a tall man. Did they not understand our options were slim? Leave the tall guys for us circus freaks. We need to breed more length!
Whew, I’m exhausted. Do we get tired of the body image qualms? Undoubtedly, the women next to us is so uncomfortable with her own insecurities, she hardly notices the impact of comments sent our way.
We must decide when we will love ourselves. When is it time to mute the comments of other’s discomforts and embrace who we are as human beings. Will we perpetuate inferiority, or will we allow it to pass by, dissolving the negative energy?
Together, let us reject the belief that are bodies are too much, or, never enough. We are precious gifts of physical and spiritual beings, creations of evidence that we were loved enough to be placed here on Earth to give this life a go. Breathing steadily, loving deeply, and enduring the wear and tear of a life well lived. Let us embrace the space of additional inches that places us that much closer to the sweet realm of all the good stuff up above. Let us awaken to the spiritual pact that our Creator has entrusted to us: this is your body gifted to you, we are to accept and care for it. If we reject ourselves, what do we have available for others to love? How will we love them better?
So, my lovely, tall, circus freak, friend: Stand up proudly with me, in heels, against the notion that we shouldn’t wear them. When asked why we do, the answer is simple. Not only do we look fabulous (because you do girl), but God loves the closer proximity.
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To the Woman on Social Media Who is Hurting

February 23, 2017

I see you when I tap that familiar icon to learn what is new in our social realm.

You take a deep breath and begin your newsfeed scroll.

What will you find today that will suck your soul?

Leave you feeling empty.

It’s like a drug, that you hope will scratch your itch.

You see an image of two smiling kids, playing with their father.

“They have such a happy life.”

Next comes a display of Pinterest creations, a beautifully decorated dining room for a minor holiday.

“I wish I had time to do that.”

A woman’s amazing physical transformation of tighter abs, and a rounder tush.

“My body will never look that good.”

You scroll on, mindlessly..uncontrollably.

The next couple is in Thailand.

“I wish we had that kind of money.”

A plate of dinner, with a description of ingredients and directions you didn’t ask for.

“Why do they think I care?”

Then comes the pregnancy announcement, the one you so desperately long for.

“I can’t bear to look at this anymore.”

Here comes a political rant, full of anger and unsolicited calls to action.

“Do they know what it’s like to be me?”

Here is the image of a woman, revealing nearly her entire naked body to the world.

“Could she ask for more attention?”

After you’ve exhausted yourself with these thoughts, you ruminate the above. You are spiritually exhausted. Your spirit has been swept out from under you. Your people looks at you quizzically. What’s wrong with her?

You then fall into a deep sleep and it becomes clear.

The women with the smiling kids and husband.

She is battling the urge to hide under the covers.

The mother who decorated her dining room.

She wonders if she is a worthy mother.

The one posting her beautiful, changed body.

She feels worthless.

The couple on the special trips.

They don’t smile at each other at home.

The dinner describer.

She is crawling out of massive debt.

The woman with the pregnancy announcement.

She’s scared out of her mind.

The angry politician.

Nobody asks for her opinion.

The woman with the naked body.

She’s never been told “I love you.”

The social media scroll is a deceptive prayer of asking others to care. An age of hyper connectivity to each other’s personal worlds. A false connectivity. We tell ourselves it’s okay to judge that person. Meanwhile, we fail to see our neighbor nearing collapse.

Let us answer the hidden prayer. Let us be bold to act. Let us repair the connectivity of humanity. Let us not examine one another’s story from a distance view, but become a part of it. The emptiness will remain until we reach for one another. For by healing others, we heal the soul.

 

 

 

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The Process of Surrendering

January 10, 2017

I have heard people say that once they surrendered, they found peace. Whether they surrendered to their truth, a higher power, the need for help — their lives profoundly changed. I would listen to these testimonies and be inspired and happy for them but I had trouble understanding. I had not yet identified a moment in my life that felt worthy of this description. Honestly, I didn’t think it sounded like much fun. The word. Like we must give up a fight, our fight.

Then, it happened. I was sitting alone in church. As the weekly message ended, anyone was invited to walk to the front of the room where two people stood up every week, ready to share a moment with anyone willing. No pressure, no expectations. Just a moment in time.

“Prayer warriors” I called them silently because I have noticed a trend – nobody seems to ask for their prayers. Faithfully, they show up every week. They stand in front of a crowd of people. People that are deeply hurting human beings that are dealing with life crises and pain. Death, divorce, drugs, despair. Yet, I see nobody going to ask for help. They are warriors to me. They fight on with little or no motivation from the crowd, myself included.

Then, my time came to ask for help. I could not ignore it. God doesn’t seem concerned with keeping me comfortable but more so in making sure I grow.

It came to me during our time of reflection. Some call or communion. Some call it meditation. I call it a time that God is saying “Child, I know what’s on your heart. Tell it to me so I know that you trust me.”

It pulled me to the prayer warriors standing at the bottom of the stage at the end of the service. I noticed a familiar face and mentally panicked. I changed course, immediately diverting to busy talk– logistics of neighborhood group and meeting times. It was as if identifying a person that knew me stopped me from reaching for God. The back of my mind remained present in my pangs—my hopes.

I took the easy road, so fearful to reveal my soul’s yearnings to strangers. Brothers and sisters of God, yes, but strangers who can judge and laugh and say that may never happen. Perhaps, more so, fear that if I say it out loud, it will never happen. So, I stifled it. I didn’t have others to blame– I couldn’t use their presence next to me as an excuse to not bring my soul to God.

I stared this man directly into his eyes and slowed my speech, appearing thoughtful. I was careful in my responses. His job, no, what he volunteered to do was pray for any need. Ask we discussed logistical chatter, I continued to fight the internal urge to ask him to please pray for me.

Please pray for me, brother. I’m hurting in this area and I need God and I need you to pray for me. I need help.

But I didn’t say that. I remained composed. We finished our conversation. I felt like I had just dipped my toe into a toddler pool instead of swimming freely in the ocean of spirituality. I left feeling like a surface faced liar. God already knew what I was bringing to him. He needed me to just give it to him. Just give it to him.

“Why am I weak?” I ask only myself.

I heard: “You are scared of being vulnerable.”

I decide to overcome this fear. The next time I am in service, I am going to the front. I am going to ask for help and I don’t care who sees me.

It’s not like it’s a big thing – geez — you walk a few steps and say a few words. You can do this. Do you know how many people who attend spiritual gatherings that need other people to pray for them? Why aren’t they up there asking for help? Maybe they are afraid, like you. Maybe you need to help them by helping yourself.

The next Sunday, I am worshipping. Singing a song about courage and being known before even leaving the womb. My heart begins to pound, my palms sweat. I see the prayer warriors return to the bottom of the stage. Inviting me.

“How can I get out of this?” I wonder.

“I already know what you are to do.”

I took a breath and took a step. I’m shaking as I walk to the bottom of the stage. Perhaps, it’s the set up, I think. Like my troubles are on display for everyone to see. To critique. It is time to stop caring about that. It is time to focus.

I ask the two kind strangers “Please pray for me.” Before I can get anything else out, it happens. I start to cry. It is scary and foreign. They are the kind of tears that hit like rushing rapids, pushing me quickly into a place I’m not sure I want to be. Swimming out in that massive ocean. I’m out of the wading pool. Ultimate surrender. Please pray for me. That’s all I need.

And they do. We hold hands, the three of us. The woman’s grip is warm and embracing, wrapping me like a blanket. The man’s is strong and steady, calming my trembles. They pray different words but they mean the same thing. They all mean the same thing. Give us love, give us hope, give us healing. When we finish, they look at me for more. That’s all I have. That’s all I need. I thank them, grab a tissue, and walk out of the room.

I think about what happened. It takes a directed, bold effort to surrender, I realize. I will relearn it. It should keep happening as life keeps happening.

Whatever the need, surrendering by saying it out loud, exposes our hearts. Exposes our desires, our pain, our dreams. Now we feel transparent. Targeted, maybe. Like the new kid in junior high school that wears the wrong shoes in front of the popular girls. Primed for attack.

However, I wasn’t attacked. I was safe. I had surrendered in my safe space.  I think our culture views the definition of surrender as weak and sometimes, shameful: To submit to an authority, cease resistance. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. There is a time for everything. Life circumstances come and go, like the seasons. Our ability to adapt and grow with these changes will directly impact what life is willing to give us back.

Enriching experiences. Strong relationships. Peace. Love. Faith. Hope.

 

Maybe you have something you need to lay down, off your heart. Maybe you don’t. But the time will come. I hope, when it does, you can be courageous and say “I might be scared, but this is worth it.” Then, take that step. Just breath and take a step. We are only free when we surrender. Give it away to receive peace.

I ran into a friend following the lesson of surrender that I had learned. She is pleasantly corralling our kiddos in the nursery. Her presence is comforting. I walk up to the counter to claim my son. My eyes are glistening and she looks at me, concerned.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, thanks. I just finally asked for prayer. I don’t know why it was so hard.”

“It feels good, doesn’t it? Just letting go.”

It really does. It is well with my soul.

 

 

 

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15 Lessons Learned from Camping with a Toddler

December 3, 2016

sawyer-and-bethany-camping-november-2016

When your partner suggests the idea, try your absolute best to barter for an alternative adventure. Use their favorite meal, sex, voting for their choice politician, anything. If this doesn’t work, beg not to go. If you don’t know how to beg, consult with your toddler.

  1. Be 100% certain there WILL be a campsite available for your massive entourage of crap BEFORE you get there. There’s nothing like spending an hour squeezing coolers, tents, blankets, mattress pads, diaper bags, babies, fire equipment, and hiking gear into the back of a Jeep only to be told by the snarky, skinny dude sitting behind the “welcome” desk that there are no sites left and you may depart the way you came.

(Side Note: Kind sir, it is advisable you recommend alternative options to the young family that looks as if they may burst into tears – all 3 of them – before you. Such as the fact that if they waited around for one hour, over five sites would open up.)

  1. Don’t give up on finding a campsite. See #2 side note. Mentally remember to scold the skinny dude with mommy eyes upon departing.
  2. If access to the beach is possible, do try to select a campsite near one. The beauty of watching your toddler dance with the crashing waves is worth the ensuing 24 hours. They surprise us every day.
  3. Test drive how well your toddler sleeps in a tent. Forget everything you learned from the test drive because it will NOT play out in the same regard. Consider buying a “mini tent” for their individual bodies. Laugh (or kick yourself in the head) when your makeshift version — a pop-up train apparatus — does not work. Decide whether you will laugh or cry when your toddler wakes up for the 10th time that night, you ask your partner what’s wrong, and they respond: “His head fell out of the choo-choo.”
  4. Get used to being that freak that jumps every time your toddler walks within 10 feet of the first fire you and your partner have ever built without adult supervision. “Hunnie, I think that was too much lighter fluid…”
  5. While sitting in the pitch dark, silently remind yourself to remind Alexa (your Amazon echo) to add a lantern to your shopping list. Curse the fact that the borrowed one from your father doesn’t work. It was last used in 1996, but it looked like it could do the job.
  6. Sing hallelujah when you find yourself assigned a lot near the “host campers”. They likely have everything you failed to remember, including a can opener for replicating those delicious fire fruit pies you made in childhood. If your toddler doesn’t want to try a bite, ask them repeatedly until they get so fed up, they take one just to appease your nostalgia. Don’t feel bad about this, remember how many times per day they ask you for a snack.
  7. Don’t be alarmed when you hear a scurrying sound that wakes you from your slumber in the middle of the night. It could be a bear, but chances are, it’s your toddler’s best version of a combat crawl, escaping the choo-choo to come snuggle you.
  8. Chuckle when you learn of your partner’s midnight standoff with an armadillo. Insist he wake you the next time something like that happens, even though you likely would’ve throat punched him if he did.
  9. Be content knowing you will receive a maximum of two uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. Be sure you have coffee creation plans that are tightly woven and unbreakable, even in the presence of a two-year-old.
  10. Embrace the fact that your child will call you out every time you sneak off to relieve yourself. “MOMMY, DADDY, GO PEE PEE” may become the new campfire song.
  11. Maybe try NOT to camp for the first time when all three of you are infected with a viral snot party of daycare respiratory illness.
  12. Smile as you and your partner recall the fact that you packed a collective three condoms (that went untouched) for your 24 hour stint in nature. Compare adjectives with your partner regarding this fact. Ours were: “Optimistic” and “You couldn’t pay me enough…”.
  13. Promise each other you will give it another chance, in another lifetime.

 adam-and-sawyer-snuggles-camping-november-2016

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What 24 Hours in Washington D.C. did for my Soul

October 31, 2016

I was scheduled for a quick three-and-a-half-hour meeting in our nation’s capital, just one week before we elect our next president of the United States. This election has caused personal angst, communal stress, and a world, it seems, that has gone mad. People are behaving in a way that resembles the trespasses I see among children in my kiddo’s two-year-old classroom.

You know how that looks. One kid is contently playing with a toy (their choice candidate, if you will). Another kid doesn’t like what they see and decides to forcefully remove the toy from the first child’s lap. No discussion about sharing, no polite request. No maintaining respect and just leaving the poor kid alone. Consider this being that constant person that, despite telling them who you have chosen to vote for and why, they still decide they want your toy. Want to debate you, prove why the decision you have made is stupid by picking apart your every word, post antagonizing Facebook updates because maybe, just maybe, they will turn a few votes.

So, that toy. It is just snatched. The first child begins to wail. Major tears. They have been hurt, disrespected, devalued. It seemed to come out of nowhere. The toy-snatcher may glance the crying child’s way, but they typically bee line for a haven to stow their latest victory. Hiding. How does the hurt child act the next time the toy-stealer comes around? Defensive. Angry. Distrusting. Close-minded about the intentions of the person.

It’s embarrassing to watch people treat each other this way. It’s demoralizing.

So, I was somewhat nervous about going to D.C. immediately before this historic election. I told my husband “I’m so over all of it”. It’s going to happen, let’s get on with it. We need to get on with it.

JetBlue got me there in a jiff. I stepped off the plane and into Ronald Reagan Airport. It’s a pretty place, the ceilings quite intricately designed for an airport, I think. I took an Uber ride to my hotel, where I am told I cannot check in yet but we will be happy to store your carry on. Just see the bellhop. She is standing to the side of her podium, with a solemn face. After I tell her hello and what I am requesting help with, she acknowledges my presence with only movement of her eyes before gesturing to the elderly man next to her. He does all the work, pleasantly. I silently wonder what her job was exactly, besides being rude, and headed outside for a stroll around our nation’s capital. Perhaps, she had her toy snatched, I think.

It is a beautiful day as I step onto the curb. The temperature is a delicious 68 degrees and I can already catch a glimpse of the capitol building as I begin walking. There is traffic, but not much. I walk to the gate that says “must stop here” and admire the architecture. I notice there is a stage being built. The fresh wood remains exposed in its natural beauty. Not yet painted nor corrupt. I move on to the reflecting pool and notice there is a group of ducks in one corner. I am drawn to them, or to the people surrounding them. The ducks are multicolored and quiet, focusing on the task of remaining afloat and looking calm while doing so. Like most Americans, I think.

I walk toward the Washington Monument. Young adults have arranged a kickball league, adorning their matching shirts and yelling “Run it out! They might drop the ball” to their playmate as I walk by. After walking a small portion of the U.S. Botanic Garden, I stop in to the National Museum of the American Indian and eat some food in their cafeteria. I was seated next to a woman about my age and an older man who had a little girl next to him. The woman looked uncomfortable and I wondered why. He started to ask her about her relationship, a long-distance situation that had been a struggle for a few years. “That’s hard” he remarks. She agrees with no elaboration.

I haven’t heard a political word uttered since being here, I think. Quite refreshing, just like this apricot and leek salad sitting in front of me. I will enjoy both.

I walked into the lobby of the hotel that was to host my meeting. Signs pointed me upward, to the escalator. As I approached the floor and stepped off the moving staircase, I am greeted by cardboard cut outs of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Smiling, standing next to each other. A guy is completing a selfie with Hilary. My first reaction was that they were real and I internally panicked. Here they are, standing alone in front of me, smiling. I guess I must be polite and go say hello. I want to run away. Thankfully, they are just cardboard. I wonder who’s hand I would shake first, I think.

The meeting happens, it ends, and we are sent to a lovely reception of wine and hors d’oeuvres. There, we sing happy birthday, as instructed, to one of the meeting attendants. She was all smiles, and appeared genuinely appreciative of the gesture. Again, no politics.

I fly home and catch a bus to my parking lot. The bus driver is petite and pleasant, helping joyfully with my luggage and chomping her gum quite loudly as she drives me to the bus stop. I pay the meter and drive home, happy to be returning to my family.

It was a peaceful twenty-four hours. I heard no anger, no disrespect, no hostility (apart from the bellhop). This sat well with my soul. It told me, no matter the outcome of this election, people will continue living their lives. They will continue to smile at one another, they will continue to play kickball. They will continue to frequent museums and walk outside, enjoying ducks in ponds and beautiful buildings. What is to come in the next couple of weeks will come and it will go. We will have a next President of the United States. We need to respect that. We will still be here.

Let’s be kind to one another. Let us learn. Let us stay open. Let us work together. Let us respect one another’s opinions and rights. Perhaps the toy-snatcher will find a way to give it back, or maybe even share. It wasn’t theirs to begin with but I am hopeful the crying child will find it in their hearts to forgive.

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I Screamed “Control Your Child” at a Restaurant

October 13, 2016

 

I recently had the opportunity to explore Boston for a work trip. My husband and I decided to make a family vacation out of the event, packing up our 22 month old son and toting him along. I am a relatively new mother, and this strange world often feels foreign and sometimes very alone. Motherhood was never a planned event in my mind. In fact, I graduated college with attempts at feminism. I would tell my friends “I’m never getting married, and if I do, it’ll be when I’m 40. I’m going to travel, be independent, and not worry about men.”

I met the man for me immediately  upon my return from college. We got married at 24, after a quick 9 month courtship and subsequent 9 month engagement. It felt completely natural, and I enjoyed the progression without resistance. We did make the conscious decision to enjoy 5 years of marriage before diving head first into the world of pack-n-plays and midnight cries. Throughout this time, we traveled, got to know each other, and focused our efforts on completing graduate school and enjoying young adulthood. I didn’t stop to ponder the question of having children. I never asked if it was an option or an expectation. I just knew that kids were a logical step in the ladder of life – based on what I had observed.

From the moment I sat on a toilet in the wee early AM hours, staring at the pregnancy test that nearly caused me to pass out, it’s been a wild ride. Pregnancy was a slow physical realization that my body, mind, and spirit would no longer independently belong to me. I had selfish thoughts: anger that I could not exercise quite the way I used to, or the fact that I even had to worry about the effects it may cause on my unborn child. Annoyance that everyone around me was enjoying alcoholic drinks on a family vacation when I could not. Sheer surprise at the weird physical changes that accompany our bodies as they work to form a new human. Please do not interpret these feelings as a lack of gratitude for this gift. I sadly realize there are many women who struggle painfully with infertility and these comments may seem extremely insensitive. They are, however, real. And so, I am revealing them. I also had many tender moments with my pregnancy. The most precious part of everyday was lying next to my husband each night, watching my belly excitedly for movement. Feeling those precious hiccups. Observing his growth as the time to meet him drew near. Planning and preparing his nursery, where he would spend his first months of life.

Now he is here, almost two years old. He is running, talking, and testing every boundary. As we walked the streets of Boston, mature parents would remark “Enjoy this time. Don’t blink. It is truly over before you know it.” They share this wisdom with such nostalgia – wistfully – sadly. Their faces reveal a longing for the time with their children that slipped out of their hands. I attempt a promise that yes, we will do our best to soak it in. Then, I am quickly distracted by my son’s attempt to dart across Newbury street traffic and my mind shifts to a familiar mixed emotion of concern and fear.

I was meeting the boys for a quick lunch in between conference sessions. It was a beautiful fall day with a gentle breeze and clear skies. We were sat at a table against the window. Restaurants are a terribly frightening place for me in this season of life. Our current strategy is to distract the child as much as possible, before strapping him in to a highchair when the food comes. We then eat as quickly as possible, dodging flailing arms and food. Hopefully, we have consumed enough calories by the time his patience runs low. He starts whining, not a few bites into our food. “Oh no” I think “Here we go.” He cries, refuses bites of either of our meals. He finally takes one, it is too spicy (Woe to you, Italian meatball!). He tightens his fist, screams in pain. I offer his milk to him and he throws it back at me. More crying. Kicking. Screaming. I start to feel heated, both from the perception of critical eyes upon me but also at my own frustrations.

I see myself at another table, 5 years ago. I’m rolling my eyes and flipping my hair, remarking to my friend “Control your child!” before dismissing this misbehavior and returning to my warm, organized food that has eloquently remained within the perimeter of my plate. Such entitled, confident judgement. That younger me goes back to discussing my plans for the day, including the necessary afternoon nap. The current me is lost, unsure how to climb this new mountain, unsure if I want to. Sure that however I decide to proceed, it will be wrong. We leave the restaurant. I’m feeling like a failure, defeated, exhausted. My son is unscathed. He happily climbs back into his father’s baby hiking apparatus and begins remarking on the city transportation. “A bu(s), a bu(s)!!” I feel drained, as if I have just come back from war. My son is laughing at a raindrop on his head. I don’t understand it, this parenting thing. I do know I’m messing it up, that much I am sure of. My husband senses that I’m shaken and we talk. He tells me I’m too hard on myself, a fair assessment. He tells me that most parents have probably felt this way. I ask “Every day?” and we smile together with a unified understanding that this is only the beginning.

He then said something that caught my attention, which is tough to do whenever in the presence of my child. “You know, if anyone else said the things you are saying about yourself as a mother, I’d punch them in the face!”

I sought multiple confirmations regarding the behavior of my toddler, by the way. That is one way I make myself feel better. The general consensus is: You cannot reason with a 2 year old. I’ll go with that.

Whoa, I thought. My husband is one of the most gentle and patient men I know. I’ve never heard a statement like that come out of his mouth. Taking time to reflect on it, I realized how important him telling me that really was. I am too hard on myself and I stink at remaining mindful of it. Why is it so dang hard for us, as mothers, as women… to just cut ourselves some slack? To relish when we do something RIGHT and stop judging ourselves when we do something wrong? Perhaps because we want so much for our kids. We want them to grow up to be loving souls who are compassionate to other’s needs. We want them to find out what it is that lights them up inside, then chase that dream down fervently. We want them to be a part of the good in this world, and fight courageously against the bad. Perhaps we worry too damn much about what other people think — particularly, other women. Did her child just sign the alphabet? Crap. Half of our “A, B, C’s” pages are ripped out.

Maybe we want them to be their own being, but we also secretly want them to be better versions of ourselves. A reflection of our countless hours of parenting sweat and tears. So tonight, I choose to forgive myself, as God already has many times over. I choose to take a deep breath the next time my son shrieks so loud, it rattles my eardrums. I choose to remain calm in my responses to him, realizing that he is soaking in so much of what I model every day. I choose to forgive myself if I do lose my cool. I choose to forgive the eye rollers of this world, for their time may also come. When it does, I hope that I am able to recognize their trepidation, their difficulties, their fear, and welcome them (and their children) with open arms.

Originally appeared on Elephant Journal 10/19/16 at following link:

Why I Screamed “Control Your Child” at a Restaurant (& Why I now Regret It).

 

 

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5 Surefire Tactics to Take Full Advantage of the Daily Commute

November 6, 2015

One of the main time-consumers of our day, with the exception of deleting countless e-mails, would have to be the daily commute. Whether it be in your own car, the subway, a train, or otherwise, the amount of time we spend waiting to get to where we need to go averages 26 minutes one way for the typical American commuter. This inspires optimistic creativity – to determine the best way to optimize our time on the road in a safe way. It also inspires math calculations – even for a science major.

26 minutes x 2 = 52 minutes per day

52 x 5 days a week = 260 minutes per week

260 x 52 weeks = 13,520 minutes per year

This roughly equals 225 hours or 9.4 days per year of our lives commuting. And that is for the lucky ones only driving 26 minutes each way (JEALOUS!)

Disclaimer: The last time I took a math class was freshmen year of college at Florida State University (GO NOLES). It was a statistics class and I got a B-. The class was early morning with a horrific Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. The majority of college kids would tell you this is the absolute worst course schedule ever. Perhaps If I had attended on the regular, the grade outcome may have been different.

Anyway, I digress. The point of the above blurb is: CHECK MY MATH.

In my continual attempts to make my day-to-day activities better, much better, I have paid a great deal of attention to how I can optimize the time spent in the car. Listed below are my findings.

  1. Find 2-3 podcasts that inspire you and listen to them consistently. When I search the podcast app for areas of interest, I also pay attention to the # of podcast episodes already available, user reviews, and of course – the subject matter. Using this highly complex equation as well as suggestions from friends, I have found podcasts that have replaced the t.v. show “Friends” as my daily guilty pleasure. However, not so guilty if they are teaching me new and helpful concepts!

The take away from #1 – take this time that is typically spent in autopilot mode and utilize it to get better at whatever you are striving to improve on.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Is this a buzz word yet? Because it should be. It means to LIVE IN THE MOMENT AND BE AWAKENED TO YOUR CURRENT EXPERIENCE. You’re like “ummm… embrace traffic jams?”

I don’t have to tell anyone, we live in an overstimulated world. Learning to be mindful of our current situation is a lesson we all can benefit from immensely. While you are sitting on the subway or driving in the car, practice being mindful of those around you. You may surprise yourself. You could potentially avoid many an accident or help a commuting neighbor in need.

 Perhaps an equipment-juggling dad dropped his sunglasses in the road while loading his baby into the car at daycare pick up and didn’t notice. You could be that very nice person that ran across the parking lot in the rain to save them for him. (my husband says “thank you, nice stranger”, by the way).

  1. Use this time for taking deep breaths. Did you know that when we do this, our heart rate slows down, our blood pressure can decrease, and it physically aids in our “rest and relax” body system activation. Sure sounds like something we need on the road. This Harvard article recommends we aim for 10-20 minutes per day practicing deep breathing. Hey, that seems to fit into my math above.
  2. Pray to a higher power. Whatever that may be that you believe. I have personally found this to be a wonderful start to the day, beginning prayer as I leave our neighborhood. Starting the day with a verbalization of what I am grateful for, thanking God for my many blessings, and asking for his guidance has provided a tranquility and inner peace that requires continual renewal in life.

If you chose to do #4, please do so with eyes open on the road. Just sayin’.

  1. Work on your posture. I don’t know about you, but I hunch over way too much, particularly in times of stress (think: post work commute). This posture is terrible for my back, making me more prone to injury, particularly in my neck and shoulder region. We are more likely to practice poor posture during this typical time of zoning out – therefore, it behooves us to practice the exact opposite and work to improve our posture at the wheel (or in our train seat, etc.). Ensure you are sitting straight up with proper alignment, head directly over your body, shoulders back, hips aligned with the body.

So there you have it. 5 simple ways to improve your commute by improving yourself. It sounds like a win against the road to me. As you incorporate these practices into your daily routine with your own individual tweaks, it will truly help you optimize your time on the road in a safe and positive way.

Here’s to a Better. Much Better. Drive!

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Why You Should Always Bring a Loved One to the Hospital

October 26, 2015

Nobody wants to think about it but the vast majority of us WILL require a hospitalization at some point in our lives. Maybe it is a quick day stay for toe surgery or a colonoscopy. Maybe the only time you’ve ever been a patient in the hospital was to have a baby and go home 48 hours later. Typically,  if you are very blessed, being admitted to a hospital system is an exception to the rule. Our goal is to stay out of there!

For many, this is a far more complex challenge. People live every day with chronic conditions — meaning, they don’t go away. They aren’t cured. Often times, these conditions flare up or cause infections, severe pain, complications that must be addressed and stabilized in the hospital.

We also get into accidents. Our kids cut their fingers, bonk their heads. We injure ourselves performing one of those “simple” do it yourself projects we see on Pinterest (damn you, mountable, rustic bird house!!)

This means — GULP — we must seek medical care. And when we do, a massive chain of events spiral into action before we even realize what is happening (because we are the ones injured, after all). I will tell you as quickly as the next provider, our healthcare system is far from perfect.

It is flawed, BUSY, complex, confusing, frustrating. Is it one of the better ones in terms of patient care in the world? I think so. Would I prefer to be treated here compared to many other countries? Absolutely. But, as you are well aware, we have our issues.

*COUGH* Personal accountability *COUGH* Major abuse of the system *COUGH* People with jobs paying a whole lot more for healthcare than those that do not work or “can’t work”.

exasperated

Uff Da! (Norwegian expression for sensory overload — exhaustion — dismay)

Sorry, let me clear my throat. I caught my child’s cold and a symptom of it is digression.

Anyway, one of the most important actions you can take when accessing our healthcare system is:

Bring someone who loves you to the hospital.

 Below are my observations:

You can’t retain everything. You only have one head. There is a dump truck full of information that gets unloaded onto you when you receive a diagnosis, discharge instructions, a new medication. One cannot possibly absorb it all in the midst of recovering from an illness or injury. Your brain is already working feverishly to recover from the stress of sickness.

 You won’t remember the whole story. Or, you may not choose to tell it. Have you experienced what I like to call the healthcare version of “Ask 20 Questions”? It’s more like “20 Providers Ask the Same Question”.

“What brought you to the hospital?” rolls into a complete interview of many components that includes your recent history, full medical and surgical history, social history, family history, etc. Your ability to retain and regurgitate these crucial pieces to your diagnosis puzzle is again compromised by the fact that you don’t feel well. Your brain is again working overtime trying to heal. You inevitably will not remember everything. Somebody who knows you and your health history well is EXTREMELY valuable in filling in those interview holes.

Also, sometimes we don’t reveal the whole story for various reasons. If your loved one knows something valuable in helping to treat you, it should be communicated. Withholding information truly hurts the patient more than anyone.

You want someone there, looking out for you. As I stated above, the healthcare system has its flaws. It is not without error. Shoot — when I broke my hip a number of years ago and crutched in to my nursing unit to hand my nurse manager proof of fracture, she immediately sent me down to the emergency room to get it further investigated. (Whether or not that was out of true concern or disbelief that a 23 year old fractured her hip, one cannot say, but I have my suspicions). Once they triaged me and made me put on the awful green gown, I was taken for x-rays. 15 minutes later, a different employee attempted to take me for the SAME SET of x-rays.

Let’s avoid the # of times we shoot electromagnetic radiation to my pelvic region, shall we? You will be answering to mama if my fertility is affected.

Granted, this is a smaller example of a “near miss” in the medical world.  However, I provide it here to explain that they happen in all forms, to all individuals. No, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. are not immune to it. Don’t worry healthcare friends, I am not about to break out the swiss cheese effect slides.

This point is of utter importance the older and more absent-minded (or crazier, whichever you prefer) we get. Knowing exactly what medications the patient is on is an absolute requirement to receive the appropriate care. I recently cared for an elderly patient who was being given 4 different blood pressure medications during her hospitalization. Her pressure plummeted and we didn’t know why… until her daughter revealed that she was actually only taking 2 of the 4 that were on her “current medication” list. Not good…and definitely not helpful for a speedy recovery and discharge.

Sidenote: There are helpful apps such as The Pill Monitor that help keep track of your current medications, dosage timing, full  list, etc.

Nobody knows you like your family and friends. If you start behaving in a concerning way, 9 times out of 10 — your loved one will recognize it before any staff member will. Simply because THEY KNOW YOU like none other. Someone being alert and in tune with your progression or decline for the duration of your hospitalization is only going to improve your outcome. Many a life have been saved by a patient’s family activating the Rapid Response Team in a timely manner.

You need the support. The hospital is not a fun place. We try to make you as comfortable as possible. The food has come a long way over the years (or not..depending on who you talk to). It’s still no fun to be there. You need the love of your people to heal. Consistent patient advocates are always preferred but shift work among family and friends is usually a requirement (what..you have lives?).

As a provider in the hospital — I personally see the direct effects of the above on a patient’s experience. Clear communication is the cornerstone here. It makes for a better, much better, outcome.

Stay well, friends.

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