Where The Rubber Hits The Road


Leave a comment

No spanx, I prefer to be myself

For the longest time I’ve been seeing these ads on Facebook for these glorified spanx. You just pull them up and they flatten out all the flab you carry on your stomach. For reals. The commercial shows these women pulling up these high wasted spanx and all the fat just flattens out instantaneously and they can wear that dress or Christmas sweater thcorset-148410__340ey only dreamed of wearing before. Move over Anne Sullivan, this is the real miracle worker.

I have to admit I’ve admired the work of these high wasted spanx. I’ve gained a lot of unexplained weight over the last few years and I feel pretty shitty about it. And I would love to slide into just about anything right now and not have to deal with my 7-8 month pregnant food baby mushing up on top. Talk about muffin top. Mine is Costco sized.

But then I think, this product goes all the way up to ones boobs. That’s right. So not only are your boobs held captive, now your entire torso is too. I thought we had left the 1800’s long behind.

I picture myself slinking into a New Year’s Eve party in a hot little number. Everything has been smoothed to perfection, just like a cube of butter when you first unwrap it. Then, at some point during the night, my lower half goes completely numb (from all the smushing…I mean, it’s not just fat in there. There’s important organs in there as well!) I buckle to the ground and have to roll myself out of the party, taking partygoers and tables with me as I go like some kind of rogue bowling ball. It’s not a pretty picture.

Or worse, I don’t go numb. And I meet some handsome, well off, respectful man. Who wants to respectfully take me back to his place. At which time I slide down these high wasted spanx only to burst forth like Pillsbury dough can, all that fat that’s been held back so forcefully being set free, knocking both him and his full glass of sparkling wine to the floor. Can you imagine? How do you explain that one?

I have nothing against women who purchase or wear these high wasted spanx product. Truly I don’t. You should absolutely do things that make you feel pretty or good about yourself! I just realized that for myself it would be a band aid, a very large stretchy band aid, over a problem that goes deeper than weight gain.  I need to find a way to embrace myself.

It’s not easy. I have a very long nose. My stomach and thighs have completely given up trying to look nice. I don’t get tan, I get freckles. So many freckles. I don’t find cool life hacks or recipes on Pinterest. I’m learning to be ok with these things. Very, very, painfully slowly. But I am trying.

So here’s some truth bombs. I encourage you to drop some as well. It’s so freeing to be yourself.

I tell more dad jokes than an actual dad.

I used to eat fish stick sandwiches on white bread with mayo. And loved it.

I fall in love way too fast.

I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear it in front of my shoes, where everyone can step on it. Then I say “sorry” in my best Canadian accent, when someone steps on it. I’m working on my self-esteem.

One of my greatest thrills in life is exploring abandoned buildings.

I cry every time I watch Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events.

Every time I watch Anne of Green Gables or Little Women I’m inspired to write about my childhood.

I’m attracted to younger men.

I want to marry Gilbert Blythe.

As a kid I lived in the country surrounded by orchards and I used to go out and pee in the orchards on occasion, just because I could.

I have very specific songs I listen to when I need to cry.

I cry a lot.

If I could get paid a living wage to just go around loving people, in hospitals and nursing homes and homeless camps I would do it in an instant.

I like cheap whiskey.

I used to blush every time I talked to a guy, whether I liked him or not.

I have fallen up the stairs at work multiple times.

My best friend growing up used to make me laugh so hard I would occasionally pee my pants.

I don’t know how I feel about the whole story of Jesus’ birth anymore, but I still think Christmas carols are some of the most beautiful songs.

I still have letters people wrote me in high school (I call it emotional hoarding).

The first guy I kissed after my divorce was this guy in a band who had been checking me out all night. We made out so hard he knocked my earring off. At which point I excused myself and did the walk of shame to find my friend.

The next guy I kissed was on New Year’s Eve at Daphne’s bar while Frank Sinatra played. It was one of my life’s most romantic moments. I promptly forgot his name.

We all have dirt, and scars, and weird hairs growing on our face, or belly fat, or kankles. We all have skeletons in our closets (hopefully not real ones.) Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t hide your true self under some tight-fitting nylon (literally or figuratively). You are beautiful as you are. You are funny and unique and brave and strong and intelligent. You are skilled and talented and useful. You are enough! Learn to embrace all that you are.

I’ll leave you with this song. I love it so much.  I hope you’ll check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX3lvwks7NU

You are enough!

 

 


Leave a comment

Spring break and social media free

My friend and I recently took a trip to San Diego for spring break. If you think being on spring break in your 40’s is unorthodox, let me tell you, it’s exactly when you should be taking a spring break. As busy working moms we were way overdue for a trip. And one is always due for an escape from the unpredictable Seattle weather.

We stayed at this lovely resort right on the water. There was hot sand sprawling out

20180417_120108

The front entrance of the resort

before us, and a hot tub bubbling at the ready for when the wind picked up. The day we arrived the resort offered us free tickets for a nighttime boat ride. I won’t call it a “booze cruise” because it was family friendly…until 10:00, when we of course boarded.

We were under the delusion that the boat left at 10:00, then returned us to the same dock several hours later when it was done floating around. And so, we got swept up in the loud music, dancing, and hilarious mix of people.

Hours later, my friend came flying up the stairs to the upper deck where I was taking a breather, shouting my name, with a look of horror on her face. “Rachel! We missed our stop!!” This is when we learned that we were supposed to be listening to the loudspeaker… despite the thumping base and drone of sweaty people, when they announced our stop. Yes, there were stops. At opposite sides of the bay. Needless to say, we were stuck out at sea and our two-hour boat ride turned into a Gilligan’s Island kind of affair. We finally disembarked at the appropriate stop at 2:00 a.m., thanks to a wedding party that had to be dropped off at our resort. We were just grateful to be alive. O.k., so we were just grateful to know our beds were close.

I will never forget this trip. I don’t know how I possibly could. It was amazing. The funny

20180415_220551

O.k., so I did take this picture (but I didn’t post it anywhere.) I was laughing so hard. “Door may open?? Isn’t that it’s job? I would be worried if it didn’t open!”

thing is, I don’t have pictures to prove any of it. I didn’t “check in” at the beach side taco stand, or take a selfie with the carnival funnel cake smothered in both chocolate sauce and strawberries, that I ate in its entirety. I didn’t send Snapchats from the crowded bar where we met this super funny young guy who was trying to find anyone at all who he could snuggle with and watch Star Wars.

I never once engaged in social media. In fact, I didn’t even take pictures until the day we were leaving because I knew my kids would be mad if I didn’t at least have pictures of the resort. True story.

I’ve heard it said that if you don’t post your experiences on social media, it’s like they never happened. Isn’t that sad? It’s like it’s impossible to just to experience a moment first hand, with no proof other than your experience to tell you that it really happened.

As I get older, I’m trying desperately to live in the moment. Moments happen so fast. And they’re so fleeting. And I find, that there’s something lost when a moment is being captured from behind a camera, rather than inside you. The trip with my friend will forever be locked in my memory. I don’t need social media to remind me about spring break 2018. How could I ever forget the three hour cruise that went all wrong.

And let’s be honest, many times when we take photos we’re thinking of the caption we’re going to post with it. Or how someone will respond to it. Or how cool it will look with the other things we’ve posted. Or how many likes it will get. Then the moment is lost. And all we have is some stupid picture with a cheesy caption, but not the actual imprinted memory of the moment as it happened.

20180705_202928

Pretty, isn’t it?

My kids and I just returned from a road trip to California. There was this sunset one evening unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was as we were driving home from the beach, and the entire sky was like a canvas of bright red and orange. I pulled off the road so we could take pictures (some things truly are picture worthy. And taking photos out the window of a moving car is just plain foolish). But after we took photos we just stood there taking it all in. It was one of those times where you can literally use the word “breathtaking”. It was like this gift, just strewn across the sky. And we could have missed it if I hadn’t pulled the car over so we could just be in that moment.

These days, I don’t have many pictures to prove I’ve been on adventures. And I’m not getting a lot of likes or thumbs up or weird emojis that I am left to identify the emotion because I have never actually seen that face on anyone. I don’t need Facebook to bring up some photo, unannounced, from 18 years ago, saying – remember that one time you did that one thing. Yes. I remember. I was there.

Facebook may be able to store a lot of pictures. But I prefer to keep my memories tucked away safely inside me.


Leave a comment

Lifelines

people-2572792__340

I work at a high school and sometimes I get so disillusioned with students. They are tuned out. They are sleeping on their desk in a puddle of drool, on their phones snap chatting their brains out, ear buds in, music blasting…tuned out to the world. What is their problem??

I have heard that this generation is known for its apathy. Us older folks would know, we just love to make sweeping generalizations about an entire generation.

But, is really apathy?

I’ve seen teens organizing marches, fighting for causes, building things, inventing things, writing  music, acting in plays, leading clubs. I’ve seen passion and wonder and kindness.

So I dig a little deeper. Maybe I’ve missed something. What do so many of these “tuned out” kids have in common? What I’m finding is that it’s not their age, sex, race, or even maturity level. What they have in common is the circumstances they were born into. Things they had no control over. Things like being born with a learning disability, or fetal alcohol syndrome, or born into a house where there’s drug abuse or mental illness or absentee parents or a never ending cycle of poverty. They are kids who can’t always control their emotions or behaviors. They often show up to school after being yelled at, or without having had anything to eat. Or a shower. sometimes I’m amazed that with so much going on these kids even make it to school in the first place. It’s kind of amazing.

What I’m saying is that these kids have been beaten down. They want nothing more thanyoung-people-2770146__340 to check out. In my mind, (my fed, showered, safe, loved mind) they should want to try even harder. Push through it all so they can have hope of a better future.   And this is the part that makes me so mad. I want them to have a better life, more options, a future that’s better than their present. I know how important education is. I want them to pull themselves up and at least try. Why can’t they at least try!?!

One of my favorite quotes is from The Perks of Being a Wallflower – “We accept the love we think we deserve.” But…What if even closer to the truth is this – We accept the life we think we deserve.

Maybe, when life has beaten you down in so many different ways, you start to believe that’s all there is. That that is all that you deserve. That there is no point in trying.

If this is true, then I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe this doesn’t have to be the Titanic. Maybe there are enough lifelines for everyone.

I still believe that you can’t save anyone who doesn’t want to be rescued. That each person has to decide for themselves that they want to be saved. Not everyone has the desire or even the strength to reach out for help. But, that doesn’t mean my hands are tied.

life-saver-2407304__340

 

So, I start tossing out lifelines.

 

There’s this student who is so great but also a handful and always in trouble. We’ve had a lot of heart to hearts. During one of those talks I told him that I believed in him. His response was that he didn’t think he could believe in himself. Ugh. So sad. So I promised him that I would do everything in my power to change that. Whenever I run into him in the halls I call out, “I believe in you!” (I also ask him how his classes are going and if he’s going to graduate and how life is in general.)  Is he embarrassed on occasion? Maybe. But he also knows how deeply I believe in him. And I’ll keep telling him til the day he graduates.

I send him a lifeline.

He just needs to know there’s someone out there who cares. He needs to know his life counts.

These kids are everywhere. They’re sleep deprived, angry, numb, snarky. They make bad choices eat bad food and shut down at school. And they need to know that someone cares.

And so I do the only thing I can. I spend my days throwing out lifelines every chance I get. Not everyone will grab one. But it’s the only thing I can do.


Leave a comment

Detoxing and other fun things

 The term detox definitely  comes with a negative connotation in my book. You rarely hear anything positive concerning the act of detoxing…unless, of course, you’re talking about that detox green smoothie you had at the gym after a really intense 10 minute workout.

My friend and I are on a detox of sorts. We started following a program dedicated to gut health. But part of the process of getting that fabulous 6 pack gut is detoxing                                                                                                                   (you know, because of all the days you didn’t drink a green smoothie).

My friend seemed to be detoxing like a goddess, darn her. She was feeling great and eating things she previously couldn’t (without a chaser of Pepto Bismol). It’s not that I begrudge her her healthy feelings. It’s just that while she seems to be pooping rose petals, I am releasing remains from the La Brea Tar Pit and have broken out in a rash that is so itchy it feels like I have bathed in a vat of poison ivy stew.

Too much information? Isn’t that kind of what a detox is, though? Too much information…leaving the body.

Speaking of too much information, I’ve been taking a college math course in attempt to finish my bachelors degree. Finally. But that’s a topic for another day. It’s supposed to be this intro college math course so of course the cocky part of my brain was like “ I got this in the cerebral bag!”

Instead, this class has been kicking my butt across the floor and under the couch where scary things live. And the thing is, I’m passing the stupid ol’ class…with a C. C!!! This “intro” class has laid waste to my perfect GPA. I know, I should be pleased just to pas. But I am one of those people. You know the ones. The ones who get way too much satisfaction, as well as find their entire value as a human being in what they can accomplish. This class is not only hard, but it makes me feel stupid and lame and like I deserve to live under the couch with the scary things.

Some things in life can make you feel so low or worthless or lame or useless. That was this class. And that’s when I realized, sometimes the detox that needs to happen is in your mind. You know, that thing floating around in your head that houses all those negative thoughts. They are just as toxic to you as all those Cheetos, Ben & Jerry’s, and rum and cokes.

I have to let go of the desire to be perfect or get everything right. The desire to have a clean kitchen or nice underwear. I have to realize that I am still a fantastic person even though I prefer to inhale an ice cream cone, rather than to find its volume (yes, this was a question in my math class). And that I’ll never live in one of those million dollar homes with a 48% down payment, 18 closing points, and an APR of 8.3% (it takes a rocket scientist to solve those amortized loan problems anyway.)

Detoxing is hard because it can make us feel yucky for a time. But releasing toxins from the body and the mind will always be a good thing. Sometime we’re full of too much information/inflammation/spicy cheetos/self doubt that needs to leave the body. So, don’t fight the detox. It might be just the thing your mind and body needs.


Leave a comment

Single and finally loving it

Single and loving it? These are not words I ever thought would come forth from my mouth. I wasn’t happy being single as a teen. I wasn’t happy as a semi-adult when I was being a bridesmaid, yet again, while wishing it was my wedding I was walking in. And I certainly wasn’t happy with my singleness post divorce when I had an insatiable desire to be loved and wanted and not alone.

girl-2940655_960_720

The road to contented singleness has been a rocky one.

I just started watching Sex and the City. I pride myself in loving things well after their shelf life, so no, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m only now catching the show.  Just look on my Pandora feed. I’ve been listening to Erasure. I have no problem enjoying old things.

I had always wondered what the fuss was about, especially when everyone was referring to themselves as an Amanda, Charlotte, Samantha or Carrie. Well, now I get it. Here are four single women with every imaginable characteristic, flaw, view on life, and dating habit. Take your pick. You’re sure to find yourself in there somewhere. I admit to finding myself undeniably drawn to the character Carrie Bradshaw. Certainly not because of her New York apartment, perfect golden locks or $800 shoe fetish. That is where we part ways, to be sure. My most expensive shoes are from Designer Shoe Warehouse and there is nothing designer about them.

But Carrie has this affinity for dating unavailable men. This, I have become a pro at and can painfully relate to her horrible magnetism to Mr. Big, who could not be more unavailable. And it’s not even unavailable as in attached to someone else. No, unavailable in other, more complicated ways.

My first plunge was with an old college boyfriend I reconnected with after my divorce. I truly didn’t go into the relationship wanting anything more than friendship. I missed him and his kindness, and the fact that we were both single made it ok so communicate again (after many years!) I was unprepared for two things when we started talking. One, that the attention would be so nice. And two, that he had held a bit of a flame for me all these years. Boy, did that make it impossible. We spoke on the phone but mostly emailed because he was in a different state. It kind of went from zero to sixty, from talking about work, to flirting a good deal and sending emails all throughout the day.

Aside from the distance, we were different from each other in ways that were insurmountable. We both knew that, and talked about it a lot. But that didn’t stop me from believing we could actually succeed at a long distance, lop-sided relationship. When we finally broke off communication, because it had just become too confusing and difficult to maintain,  I was a total mess. I grieved hard and felt unwanted for a while. And wanted to reconnect with him at least a dozen times after.

Then I fell for another guy who was clearly unavailable. He even told me so. He lived in the same time zone, at least, but he wanted friendship only. But, my god, he was handsome. It’s hard not to fall for that. And he was kind, generous, smart, well read. We had a blast. We went for hikes and stayed up all hours of the night watching each other’s favorite shows. Despite his insistence that he had only friendship for me, things were often confusing and misleading. I fell head first, despite the warnings. I was a mess. I would have done anything for him. I eventually had to break off what we had going. I was in love, and he was not. It was horrible. I cried for months. I haven’t seen him in several years and it still feels like I lost a pretty great friend.

I have been through so much grief chasing after someone who is not meant to be mine.

I’ve chased after guys on Plenty of Fish who spent days chatting with me, then suddenly ghosted. Apparently that’s a thing now, ghosting. And I don’t mean coming back to seduce you over a pottery wheel. No, it means quite possibly literally falling off the face of the earth. It means spending a whole day on your phone (when you have so many other things you should be doing) telling someone your whole life story through little message bubbles…making plans, picking a place to meet up next weekend, picking a wedding gown (in your mind, of course). And then, the next day, poof. Gone. Never to be heard from again. Ghosting.

I have made second date plans before even having a first date and waited for a guy to call me while he was probably making out with some younger, hotter fish. How did I become so drawn to unavailable men?

So I finally did a Google search. Google therapy. There’s an app for you. And this is what I found – insecure, hurting, or anxious women are drawn to unavailable men because #1, we think there’s no danger of getting hurt, or #2 we believe that if we can turn an unavailable man available by our sheer wonderfulness, if we can work really hard to make someone love us, then we can finally believe in ourselves and our worth.

How sad. Because if a man is unavailable, it says something about him, not about me. And my value should never lie in convincing someone to love me.

And that is how I came to be in this place. I finally started to see my own value, and stopped needing to find it in a relationship with someone else.

Oh, I don’t miss the days of  neurotically checking my phone to see if I got a text or a like or little bubble message from Plenty of Fish. You can keep your fish. And Miss Bradshaw, you can keep all those unavailable New York men to yourself. Because I’m single and finally loving it!

 


Leave a comment

Will We Always Be Divided?

I have always been a firm believer in love. That it big, strong, and brilliant. That love can change things. But we’re living through some intense times. Anyone on social

united-states-2524774_960_720media can tell you. I’m on Facebook (yes, I know this ages me) and I see it every day. There is a lot of fear, and a lot of division. I’ve always had a bit of a Pollyanna view of the world. That good would conquer and love was enough and it was all about having a good heart. But now I’m really starting wonder, is love enough?

I think the answer is No. Many of us are afraid and angry. We are at great odds in our thinking with those around us. We’re seeing violence in our schools like never before. Things will never change without action. A handful of years ago I went to a 4-day conference called Breakthrough. I was in a room with people of different walks and ages, most that I had never met before, and we were drilled for 4 days by life coaches. It was kind of horrible. Because we were called on our b.s. for 4 days straight. We had walls put up? Why weren’t we willing to take them down. We didn’t follow through on our responsibilities? Didn’t we know our actions affected other people.  We were forced to face all the excuses we had made for not living life we wanted. I learned that my actions mattered. That there were no such thing as neutral interactions; but that all the thousands of interactions I had with people daily (even just at the grocery store) mattered because I was leaving something behind. I was taught that good intentions were just gestures and that what people really needed from me was action. That my good intentions weren’t helping anyone at all. My actions mattered. I can truly say that I’ve never been the same since that encounter. I was forced to take a hard look at the way I lived and realized I wanted to start living as if what I did mattered.

 

I know I am loved because people have driven miles to bring me dinner after the birth of a baby, taken care of my kids countless times, given me couches, collected money for my family one Christmas when I wasn’t receiving child support. I know that phand-3035665_960_720eople love me because they’ve put hands and feet to their love. They’ve shown me that love isn’t a feeling but an action Love without action is not enough.

In light of the recent, and ongoing school shootings; what does action look like? How does my love and concern turn into something meaningful and tangible? There is something powerful to grieving with those who grieve. With praying and sending good thoughts to victims. It means that we have empathy and recognize our connection to those around us. It is a first step. But grieving students and parents need much more than just to know that the larger community loves them right now. They need to see hands and feet put to that concern.

 

I’ve heard theories over why we’re seeing an increase in school shootings. Theories that family units aren’t strong, there’s not enough discipline, untreated mental health issues, taking God out of schools, too many guns, not enough guns. As spot on as any of those might be, to me, all they do is remove us from the equation. If I am not guilty of any of those things, then I can stand on the sidelines and cast judgement on those who didn’t. They are the problem. There’s nothing I can do. We want to point fingers because then we are not complicit.

I’m going to say something that you might not want to hear. We are all complicit. Let me say that again, we are all to blame. How can that be? I wasn’t involved in any way. Exactly. Our lack of involvement is what got us here. If you believe that the increase in school shootings is a mental health issue, do your actions show it? Are you fighting for health care coverage and funding for programs that provide mental health to those who need it? If you believe the problem lies in the crumbling family unit or lack of discipling, how do your actions show it? Are you doing everything in your power to support families around you? Are you standing by single parents, underprivileged families, families with children with special needs…families who might be doing a better job of being a unit if they had enough support? Raising kids is an endless and exhausting task. Imaging having a child with mental health issues. Or violent streaks. Or a kid who stays locked in their room and refuses to talk or let you in. Many families are at the end of their ropes. They can’t find the help they need. Imagine being that parent and knowing you are being judged because you can’t find the help you need?

 

If you think we are seeing more violence in schools because God has been removed from schools, is the God you believe in limited by human laws? Has he left the schools? And if God exists, even he requires people to be his hands and feet. Are you a presence in your children’s school, making sure kids and staff feel loved and supported?

 

 

 

Action can sometimes feel like the easy part. Especially when we’re spurred on by feelings of anger. But this is what I believe about action- We cannot accomplish any meaningful action without unity. It takes a village. Any great change that has occurred through history was brought about through people uniting for the cause. Ouch. This is a hard one. We are a polarized people. Our political beliefs seem to have drawn a line in hands-1939895_960_720the sand that we’re not willing to cross. How can we possibly ever have unity? I have a suggestion. Let go of always being right in favor of being connected.

I am forever hearing about our rights. Somehow in demanding our rights, we’ve lost basic decency and kindness. It’s true, you have every right to have an opinion. You have every right to have an opposing opinion than me. You even have the right to post your opinion on social media through scathing comics, cutting memes, comments like “Anyone who believes this is an idiot” … You have that right. But to what end?

It’s no coincidence that the people who follow you on Facebook are called “friends”. They’re supposed to be your friends. They’re the people you go to school or work with. They’re family, family friends, people you met on trips. People you tend to like and want to share your life with. They are people who brought you soup when you were sick and held your new baby so you could sleep and caught your tears and snot on their new sweater when you couldn’t stop crying. These are people who have different backgrounds, belief systems, upbringings than you. Their beliefs, like yours, have been hard won through life’s ups and downs. These are the people who are being affected by the divisive comments or inflammatory memes. Your friends.

 

How can we possibly ever unite to fight a cause if we are holding onto our right to say things that are divisive and offensive to our friends. Those people who have our backs. Those people who could unite with us to fight a cause if only we felt like we were on the same team. I am guilty of this. I’ve lashed out in frustration. And I am truly sorry. I have let my frustration show itself though snarky comments. I have no right. You are my friends. We can’t be both for each other and against each other. Don’t forget who (or what) the enemy is. Children are getting killed at school. I would sure like as many people on my team as possible in fighting this, despite your political association. If you believe that our children and staff should be safe at school, you and I are on the same team. Period. We might have different ways of approaching the issue, but we both want the same thing.

 

If you don’t want to talk gun control, that’s ok. Let’s find other common ground. Let’s talk about supporting our community. I’d love to see the schools where shootings have occurred receive hundreds of letters saying – we grieve with you, you matter, we promise to do our part to end violence in schools. I would love to see people show up onpaper-3097505_960_720 school campuses while kids arrive and hold signs that read  “You matter” “You are loved” “You deserve to feel safe” “We are on your side”. I work at a high school. It is intense work. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the trenches with these kids. It is hard and endless work. We need support. I need support.  No positive change has ever come about in my life because of a negative message. Someone making me feel small, stupid, ashamed or wrong never made me want to join their team. Don’t you feel the same? Can we find ways to accomplish something despite our differences? I believe we can.

 

How can we unite? Love. We’ve come full circle. Unity is impossible without love. We can have the passion and desire to see something happen. We can whip people up into a frenzy to follow our lead. But it’s not sustainable without love. We are in this for the long haul. Change takes time. It can be easy to become hopeless (especially with the political climate).  Love helps us remember that the people we’re fighting against are those we could be fighting alongside.

Find people you can join with to make meaningful change. Accept difference and try to remember what it is you’re fighting for. Let love be the fire that keeps you going.

 

 

And last of all….You Matter!

 Make it count

Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity->Love->Action->Unity


1 Comment

Being a teenager is hard

Recently I wrote about my teen daughter and how she thought life was hard now but would realize down the road that she didn’t have it so bad. I had to rethink that. After hearing a lot of  people talking about it, I finally watched the show 13 Reasons Why. I have to admit that I was expecting it to be an overdone teen drama with bad acting. But I still wanted to see what all the fuss was about. What I wasn’t prepared for was the way it broke my heart in two. Maybe being a teenager is harder than I thought.

Entering high school. I was a big dork. Look at those glasses!

Going into high school I was as dorky as they come. I had unkempt hair, didn’t care for makeup, and had the world’s worst glasses. They were very thick and a sort of blonde color that perfectly matched my hair. My best friend and I, who had grown up together since we were six, had wild imaginations. We loved to play in the fields surrounding my house, or in the decrepit barn on our property. We read Nancy Drew and sat in her front yard writing stories of our own. She introduced me to the wonders of Anne of Green Gables and black and white movies. We were young, carefree, typical youth who stayed up too late watching movies that scared the cheese out of us and talking about cute boys from church.

Prior to high school we were both home-schooled and in many ways pretty sheltered from the realities of the world. Our older sisters, who entered high school one year before us, decided to go to a private school in the next town. I don’t know exactly what drove the decision. But when given the opportunity to go to the local high school, or the private one, we chose to follow in our sister’s footsteps.

Imagine two girls with bad hair and glasses, no makeup and little sense of style. Did I mention that we also grew up poor? Dirt poor at times. We had both been working for years at that point and before entering high school had bought our own clothes, trying to keep up with the times as much as possible. We had the acid washed jeans and the jeans with a zipper on the back with a little bow on top. We had those awful matching long knit sweaters and skirts, and wore knock off Keds. Needless to say, we were just starting to have a sense of wanting to look cute and be liked.

We both fell in with a group of girls who were much like us. They never made fun of our fashion choices or bad glasses. I had my first high school crush and many to follow, much like my best friend. What I wasn’t prepared for was the bullying when it came. How does one really prepare for that.

I don’t remember all of the specifics, it doesn’t matter anyway. But I do remember the humiliation. The way boys in class made fun of my clothes or threw things at me when I walked by in the hallways. Once a boy threw something at my head and when I reached back to see what it was, found that I had gum stuck to my hair. My friend had to disentangle it in class. In front of everyone. And the teacher.

It was a small school, around 300 students for all 4 grades, so things spread fast. Somehow, someone would pick a “name” for me, and would spread it around campus. The only name I remember is “Gap”, chosen because of the wide space between my two front teeth (which, by the way, I was already painfully aware of and smiled with my mouth closed to cover it up. So thanks for pointing it out.) I would be walking around campus and somebody would call out, “Hey gap!” Mostly it was people I didn’t even know and often it was senior boys. It was humiliating. Kids would openly poke fun of me in class while the teacher’s would look on and say nothing. Not once.

I hadn’t done anything spectacularly embarrassing to bring on the teasing. I was just a great target. I was a dork, my clothes weren’t expensive and, more importantly, I  wasn’t a part of any special clique. It’s funny, I could have been a dork but run track and I might have been immune. The system is pretty messed up.

My mom was working extra hours to send me and my sister to a private school. It was not cheap. And it was a religious school that had Bible class and chapel once a week. We were taught about love and acceptance. But no one stepped in and made sure that I, as a part of that community, was actually feeling loved or accepted.

I realize now the ironic thing about teenagers. Teens push adults away. They make adults feel stupid and unnecessary. But deep inside they’re still looking for adults to be their heroes. To step in when they’re over their head and give them a way out, or to stop the cycle of bad things that are happening. They really do need us.

I entered high school innocent, believing the best in people, and just wanting to have a regular high school experience. After two years I was so broken down that I finally switched schools. (I can’t believe I stuck it out two years.) The tipping point was when my mom realized I was crying every day after school. She set up a meeting with the school principal and I went with her. I explained what was happening and she put in her two cents. He sat there listening and then this is what he said, “Parents pay a lot of money to have their kids come to this school so there’s really nothing I can do.” Nothing he could do??? I’m sorry but WTF?? This man was the head over the school. A man responsible for setting the tone of the school and caring for the souls who attended. It was the last straw.

Thankfully, I had an entirely different experience at the public school I attended next. Thankfully social media didn’t exist then, so my humiliation could only spread so far. Thankfully I had parents who were attentive and loving and didn’t make light of my suffering. But that’s not always the case.

13 Reasons Why is about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind taped messages telling people why she did it and all the things that contributed to her decision. The show deals with bullying and sexual harassment, social media and a multitude of other things that teens have to face. I was crushed after watching it. I cried for all the high school students I see every day who may be experiencing soul crushing experiences daily. Who just want some adult to step in and be their savior. To put an end to whatever hard thing they’re facing.

I was lucky to be able to change schools and make good friends and move on. But I was left with scars. I know we are all affected by a multitude of things over a lifetime. I know that we can never blame just one incident for the way we turn out. But, I wonder if the messages I received during those years when I wanted to be seen and loved and accepted left an imprint that let me believe that I was stupid or ugly or unlovable. That my worth was based on surface things alone. I wonder if it affected the man I chose to marry or the way I let him treat me poorly for way too long. I don’t know.

The things we go through mold us and change us. If you’re in your teens, please know that this stage is not forever. Reach out to people who love you and be honest about what life is like for you. Life will get better but you have to be around to see it happen. You matter and your life affects more people than you can comprehend right now.

Last year of high school. Teeth fixed (thanks mom and dad!), contacts (goodbye blonde glasses) and feeling much better about life.

If you’re an adult reading this, take what teens experience seriously. You might be their last cry for help. Social media allows all sorts of cruelty to bombard kids all day long. It’s exhausting and can make anyone feel like the world is just too much. Step in when you see someone being a bully or inciting hatred towards someone else. Check in with your kids or the kids in your life frequently. Do some digging if you feel like something isn’t right. We’ve all needed someone to be a hero for us at some point. Maybe today you get to be the hero.


Leave a comment

Charity

There are some things that take a long time for me to talk about. Charity is one of them.

20170706_171646Charity and I were destined to be friends. I fought it, though. It’s a funny story. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when we met but I do remember the exact situation because of the sheer awkwardness of it.

 

 

My parents and Charity’s went back many years somehow to this commune type place we lived for a short time before it turned into an all out cult situation. A story for another time.

Her family had just moved to Reedley, which was practically just down the street from our sweet little town of Dinuba. (It’s sweet in my nostalgic mind anyway.) My parents were super excited for my sister, Sarah, and I to meet Charity and her sister. They were close to our ages which predisposed us to get along famously. Obviously.

Because my parents were so insistent that we would all get along, Sarah and I decided that we would not, under any circumstances, enjoy the company of these two miscreants. Just to spite my parents. What did they know anyway. And to add insult to injury (maybe a strong euphemism here) we were invited to their house for a frickin birthday party. A birthday party! So, not only were we about to meet some strange girls that we were being forced to like, but also a house full of more complete strangers. My angst was in high gear.

What I couldn’t have known til I stepped into that house was that there was no way to not to like Charity. She had this wild head of hair and an infectious laugh and was so damn funny. My resolve to dislike her melted like a snow cone in August.

20170706_171224

Such a great pose on my parents funny little wicker chair!

Charity was hilarious, generous, kind and adventurous. She had a way of talking me into things I would never have done, like hopping a fence to climb a water tower. Or going on bad blind dates. Ones that ended with both boys hitting on her. Charity also taught me the joy of do it yourself model shoots. We didn’t need no stinking “glamor shots” from the mall. Oh no. We just needed a few picturesque spots and a day that my sister was gone (so we could raid her closet.) Photo to the left.

We were constantly dying each others hair a new shade of red (hers was a nightmare, there was just so much of it!) We had all night movie marathons and ate ice cream out of the carton. I remember this one night we had eaten so much ice cream with toppings we were nearly sick then we got to the scene in The Piano when a little girl’s finger gets chopped off. (Remind me why this happens??) We just about lost it. We rolled around clutching our stomachs in fits of laughter and horror.

Charity loved to play guitar and we sat around with friends or just the two of us and sang for hours. It’s one of my favorite memories. She was this beautiful, free spirit and you couldn’t help feeling like everything was going to be ok when you were around her.

Charity was one of my biggest fans and she was always encouraging me when 20170706_171720-1I was sure I would never find “the one”. We both went on some bad dates, and some good ones too. We laughed and cried together. A lot. When my time finally came she was in my wedding and when I had my first baby, she was the first one in line to offer babysitting.  She was always there for me and always seemed to know when I needed an encouraging note or a hug.

I was so thrilled when Charity met the guy of her dreams. His proposal was so sweet and planning her wedding was like a dream. Charity’s mom was going to make her dress, but I insisted that we still go and try on dresses, since it had been such a fun experience for me.

She was on her way to my house when she was in an accident. I don’t remember exactly how I found out exactly. I just know I was trying to track her down because she was running late and I was told she had been in an accident and was headed to the hospital.

I waited with her family and friends at the hospital as we slowly got word on how she was doing. Finally we got news that she wasn’t in great shape but that it appeared she just needed her gallbladder out. It was such a relief and I remember joking with a friend that we would have to break the news to her that she wouldn’t be able to eat fried foods anymore. I even remember calling her boss to let him know show would be out of commission for a little while. I left the hospital planning to come see the next day. She was going to be ok. It was such a relief.

In the middle of the night I got the call. It was her finance. It was very brief, he just said that they hadn’t been able to get the swelling in her brain down and she hadn’t made it. Just like that she was gone.

I can’t properly express the shock I went through or the feelings that came after. I can’t fully express the thoughts that came…she was on her way to my house. To my house. Grief has many faces.

I will always grieve the fact that Charity never got to walk down the aisle, or be a wife or a mom. Or become the adult version of herself. She didn’t get to watch her siblings grow up. Or be there for her mom during rough times.

Charity was my constant cheerleader. She not only knew me but got me.  She would have been a brilliant wife and mother had she gotten the chance.

She was my brilliant friend.

 

Charity, I love you and will miss you forever. 20170706_180525

 


Leave a comment

I don’t speak internet dating

I’ve recently submersed myself in the world of internet dating. Or, internet stalking, depending on how you look at it. I’ve shied away from the whole internet thingman-949058_960_720 in the past because it seems so impersonal. Swipe right. Swipe left. But what I failed to realize until now is just how much there was to learn from the whole experience.

I joined one of the lesser “prestigious” dating sites. Meaning, I didn’t have to fill out a 34 page questionnaire, nor did I have to pay a bloody dime. Score. (“Free” online dating has gotten so expensive!)  I won’t tell you which site I joined, because, duh, how embarrassing if you tried to look me up (as opposed the one trillion strangers who are currently capable of looking at my profile).

I made as honest of a profile as I could highlighting my love of sunshine, books, and reading. I gave myself a cheesy, yet noteworthy username and put on a variety of pictures. For my main photo I chose a recent photo of me on a hike with little make up and my hair wind-blown. I cannot lie, it was a test. I wanted to see how I would fare among all the “boob shots” and Kardashian wannabe’s I was in competition with.

I chose “treehugger” as my personality and “dating, but nothing serious” as my intent. The messages flooded in immediately. I got a lot of “Hey beautiful”. I have to admit, I was surprised. Some messages were sweet and well thought out. Others were short and to the point, like the words “Let’s date” followed by a phone number. Yep, that happened. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the only thing written on his profile page was “looking for women to make babies with”. Charmed, I’m sure.

One man seemed very intent on meeting me but explained that he was heading to a remote cabin on an island for two weeks and would I like to join him fish-33712_960_720there for dinner? I am not making this up. I wanted to ask if I should bring the duct tape or if he already had a large supply. My friend said to make sure I told her the location of the cabin so she could find the tiny pieces of me he had dumped in a well. Fish bait? No thanks!

The thing I wasn’t prepared for was how the whole thing would truly mess with my head. It was as if the logical part of my brain turned off and my Pavlovian programming kicked in. Every time I heard the little pinging notification I couldn’t get to my phone fast enough. I couldn’t wait to see what Hansmdud101 had to say. What if he was the one??  What if I didn’t respond fast enough and he found someone he thought was the one my mistake. Before I even opened his message I was picking out a wedding location and naming our St. Bernard.

The other thing I wasn’t prepared for was how people’s actions never seemed to meet with their words. I assumed that if people took the time to make a charming and creative profile, and took the time to peruse other’s profiles, that it was because they actually wanted to meet people. You know, in person. Like a date. I was totally mistaken. I spent entire days responding to questions about myself, where I liked to hang out, what my interests were, even made tentative plans.  Only to find the guy had all but disappeared by the next day, never to be heard from again.  It begs the question, wtf? Did they chicken out? Were they stringing me along for their amusement? Did their wife get home? Ugh. Not funny.

I started to realize that some guys were put off by the fact that I had put I was interested in “dating, but nothing serious” rather than “looking for the love of my life on this crummy site”.  Because apparently “nothing serious” actually means “DTF” (one night stand ready) and not “I’m not necessarily looking for my husband but am interested in meeting people who seem nice so we can meet in a public location and see if we have a friendship connection that may lead to something else”.  It became clear that I needed to adjust my “intent” one night when a guy messaged me suggesting I drive an hour away to meet him so I could buy him drinks. Seriously?  I wanted to say. “You must have missed the part of my profile that read – single mom of 3 and broke AF.” But, those are the things we’re told not to include on our profiles.

I decided there are only two kinds of people on this site. Those who want to procure a wife. And those who want to hook up. Oddly enough, none of them actually  want to meet in person (other than the odd cabin murderers). So, I changed my intent to “Want a relationship”, hoping it wboard-1820678_960_720ould attract some better guys than I had been attracting so far. Couldn’t hurt, right?  Guess how many messages I got after I changed it. None.

Clearly, I don’t speak internet dating. Please excuse me while I go delete my profile.


1 Comment

Life is made up of moments

My daughter has been doing a lot of sighing lately. And by a lot, I mean if she were wearing a tank of some kind I’d be worried that it was leaking. I want to pull her aside and tell her the cold hard truth – that it’s going to harder from here on out. That she hasn’t even begun to face all the hard things that are ahead. It’s not to belittle whatever stress she’s experiencing. Nor, is it to say that her life is going to be hard all the time. But, how many times, as we get older, do we look back and think “If I only would have known”? I have a feeling that someday down the road my daughter’s going to realize how simple her life was during her “sighing” period.

It’s like the time I got everything just perfect. Yes, just the once. Netflix was set to my favorite show. I had a nest of blankets waiting for me on the couch. And beside it, an icy, tall glass of milk. All that was left was the pièce de résistance, my hidden stash of Oreo’s. Yes, I have a hidden stash, don’t you?? The only problem was, when I unearthed them from their clever hiding spot, I knew immediately that I was no longer the only keeper of their secret location. The package felt very light and I knew as I heard the tiny crumbs make their way down the little ridges in the package and hit the bottom that the package was completely empty. Ugh! If only I would have known! I wouldn’t have been so excited for the perfect experience I thought I had created. I could have planned accordingly.

Life really has a funny way of not letting us in on its secrets. Sure we can laugh when we look back at that god awful haircut we had in 6th grade or the matching jazzercize suit we wore faithfully to aerobics class. But sometimes our inability to see into the future just seems cruel. Like when we realize, after so many years,  that we married the wrong person. It can feel so damn unfair. If I only would have known.

And here’s the thing – life will always be this way. We don’t get a magic mirror or a time machine. There’s no wild-haired mad scientist telling us we simply must go “back to the future.” Apparently only Michael J. Fox is so lucky. We just get this one choice, to either live regretting the past and fearing the future. Or choose to live in the moment. Which can be scary. It means embracing it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This past summer my kids and I drove to California for a visit. It’s not the first time we’ve done it, but this trip was markedly different. I made a conscious effort to be in the moment as much as possible. If you know me, you know how hard this is for me. I’m a planner and a worrier. I want to anticipate everything that might happen.

Instead, I decided to just let the trip be in control. I decided to get out from behind a camera lens and just experience everything first hand. I took very few pictures, and tried to just capture everything internally. There was this one moment that was so poignant it still makes me tear up. We were driving this long stretch and suddenly Lake Shasta was right there. And it was so magnificent. It was so clear, and the sun was blazing down creating all this magic on the water. I turned around to make sure the kids were seeing it. And they were all asleep! So, I just had this private moment with the lake and the sun and all the beauty and tucked it into my heart. It was so beautiful. And I don’t have a single picture to prove it.

Cheryl Strayed tells of how her mother told her repeatedly as she grew up to “put herself in the way of beauty”. Life can be so hard. And it’s just made up of moments. We don’t know what the next moment is going to bring. I’m so glad I put myself in the way of beauty this summer. It was so worth it.

I lost a friend to cancer this summer too. There aren’t words. It was so hard, on so many different levels.Watching someone slowly waste away is horrible.  I was wracked with guilt. “If I only would have known” ran constantly through my head. If I knew she had such limited time,  I would gone to see her more. I should have cleaned her house more. I  should have brought her meals. If I only would have known.

I can choose to live there, or I can move forward. I can do my best to honor her memory by living as boldly as she did. I can remember how much we laughed, even when things were so hard for her. I can remember how much she embraced the moments she had.

We don’t get to see ahead in time. We never will. We just have right now. And we get to choose what to do with each moment. In the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”