Embrace Grace

“If he wrecks the car, I’m gonna lose it. I know I should try to be calm, but I’ll probably flip out.” She made the little half giggle she does when she’s making a half joke…like, I’m trying to poke fun at my hypothetical freak out, but it probably won’t be hypothetical. 

My friend and I were talking about our oldests getting their driver’s permits and navigating another new parental “letting go” milestone. 

“Same. I’ve basically been losing it over everything since mid-March.” I said. I can’t remember if I made my own half giggle at that remark. But if I did, I should not have. Because there has been nothing funny about my mental well-being for the vast majority of 2020.  Continue reading “Embrace Grace”

Saving a Bird – And the World – In Three Easy Steps

A bird flew into our window today.

I was sitting at our kitchen counter when I heard a thud. I looked up to see something falling to the ground and a flurry of feathers floating in the air.

Damn. That had to hurt.

I apprehensively opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the deck, concerned about what I might find. Would it be a dead, disfigured carcass over which I would feel both heartbreak and disgust at the idea of having to dispose of it? Would it be a pissed off fowl ready to come at me as revenge for my ill-placed kitchen window? Thankfully, it was neither. What I found was a brilliantly beautiful bird sitting on my deck almost motionlessly, trying to figure out what the f*ck just happened to him. Continue reading “Saving a Bird – And the World – In Three Easy Steps”

No Matter What the Waitress Brings…

Do you ever have those moments when something that never meant anything to you suddenly does? And you wonder how you missed it so many times before?

It happened to me yesterday.

I was walking home, listening to some tunes, having just trekked to the pharmacy to pick up some items we needed. I was wearing a backpack to carry my stuff. (Do I need to prove they were essential? That I was justified in breaking the stay-at-home mandante? Because I feel like I need to prove they were essential. I can sense you judging me. It was medicine, guys. And vitamins. And okay, okay Continue reading “No Matter What the Waitress Brings…”

The Gumball Tree

I am looking out my window, feeling the weight of things that have been bothering me. Things I’m so good at tucking away inside. Because they are dumb in the grand scheme. They are petty and poisonous and 100% of my own creating, and they don’t deserve to have light shined upon them where they might cause someone else pain. So I look out the window, hoping if I look long enough, the feelings will find it quite nice out there and decide to make a new home. Continue reading “The Gumball Tree”

To Return or Not To Return

When I saw that the calendar read December 1st this morning, I took inventory of what that meant:
 
…Don’t forget to bring the two Adopt-a-Family gifts to Bootcamp class…Make sure to throw in a few loads of laundry in preparation for our busy weekend ahead…Help set up for tomorrow’s PTO event…Which reminds me, pack after-school snacks to bring to the kids since they will be hungry while we’re setting up…Let the kids start the Advent calendar…Oh, crap. The damn elf was supposed to come today. Well that’s off to a great start…

Continue reading “To Return or Not To Return”

Fluid

Despite what their names suggest, beginnings and endings are fluid. Nothing ever really begins…or ends.

Today has been a bit of a landmine of emotion. My grandma turns 87, just two days after being put on hospice. The symbols of her beginning and end being so close to one another is not lost on me.

Similarly this afternoon, my husband and I had a chance to take the kids back to our first home, almost 12 years to the day we moved in, and 8 years to the day we moved out. Again, the timing was not lost on me. It was the place where my daughter Grace spent the first two years of her life, and a house my son Michael never knew. Much of it was exactly as we had left it, down to the paint on the walls. It made me homesick, wanting to go back to those moments in my life that had passed. How easily I could put myself right back there…remembering how the boxwoods smelled as we worked in the yard…reading the Sunday paper while having breakfast in the tiny dining room…putting groceries away in the cramped, galley kitchen…seeing a toddler-sized, fluffy-haired Grace sitting on the floor of the living room watching Sesame Street with toys strewn around her…PhotoGrid_1433110505309

Then I turned around and saw the reality of now: this beautiful young woman with feet bigger than mine, who had no real memories at all of the house, despite the fact that I could picture her in every single corner of it. And next to her was this 6-year-old boy with kangaroo legs, sliding around on hardwood floors his chubby little baby knees never crawled on. We moved out of that house so we would have more room to bring Michael into our lives. How odd to be standing in this place with him where he never existed, if only in our dreams for the future.

It almost took my breath away how quickly life had changed in a matter of 8 years…how, standing within those walls of our first home, it felt like the beginnings of our marriage and parenthood seemed like yesterday. Yet a second later, it felt like a lifetime ago as I gazed upon my kids, who didn’t fit in this house at all: one because she was just too grown up to match the memory, the other because he was simply in existence. All the longing to be back in those days for even a moment vanished, for I realized my story couldn’t have gone the way it was supposed to if we hadn’t left that house. And leaving wasn’t really an end, but a beginning of something new, something better. Moreover, I discovered how easily I could make what was over seem like it wasn’t.

I hope that is what is happening for my grandma right now. It is as if her dementia has her in a state a bit like the one I was in as I walked through the rooms of my old house. She is living in moments of her life that are over, moments where sometimes her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren don’t even exist. Then every now and again, she is jarred into the present. Despite her failing condition, I would like to think she has points of clarity when she knows we are all here, that the way her life played out was good. Very good. And just as my husband and I will one day have to leave the house we live in now, the one that will always be known as the place where we raised our family, my grandma is facing another move…her final move.

I believe within the deepest chambers of my heart she will be moving on to a place where she doesn’t ever have to nostalgically wish to live in a moment that has passed, or feel as if life is being lived too quickly. She can be cognizant of every person she has loved. She can walk the rooms of any house she ever adored, sit in the desks of any school she ever attended, eat at any restaurant she ever held special, and sit on any Irish hill she ever dreamed of…all at the same moment. She won’t have to experience life in one-second increments. She can be in all the moments, all the time. Her end here with us will be the beginning of hopefully everything for her.

In a word, it will be fluid.

I'm pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there...
I’m pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there…

•••

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Fluid: The Mirage of Beginnings and Endings

Despite what their names suggest, beginnings and endings are fluid. Nothing ever really begins…or ends.

Today has been a bit of a landmine of emotion. My grandma turns 87, just two days after being put on hospice. The symbols of her beginning and end being so close to one another is not lost on me.

Similarly this afternoon, my husband and I had a chance to take the kids back to our first home, almost 12 years to the day we moved in, and 8 years to the day we moved out. Again, the timing was not lost on me. It was the place where my daughter Grace spent the first two years of her life, and a house my son Michael never knew. Much of it was exactly as we had left it, down to the paint on the walls. It made me homesick, wanting to go back to those moments in my life that had passed. How easily I could put myself right back there…remembering how the boxwoods smelled as we worked in the yard…reading the Sunday paper while having breakfast in the tiny dining room…putting groceries away in the cramped, galley kitchen…seeing a toddler-sized, fluffy-haired Grace sitting on the floor of the living room watching Sesame Street with toys strewn around her…PhotoGrid_1433110505309

Then I turned around and saw the reality of now: this beautiful young woman with feet bigger than mine, who had no real memories at all of the house, despite the fact that I could picture her in every single corner of it. And next to her was this 6-year-old boy with kangaroo legs, sliding around on hardwood floors his chubby little baby knees never crawled on. We moved out of that house so we would have more room to bring Michael into our lives. How odd to be standing in this place with him where he never existed, if only in our dreams for the future.

It almost took my breath away how quickly life had changed in a matter of 8 years…how, standing within those walls of our first home, it felt like the beginnings of our marriage and parenthood seemed like yesterday. Yet a second later, it felt like a lifetime ago as I gazed upon my kids, who didn’t fit in this house at all: one because she was just too grown up to match the memory, the other because he was simply in existence. All the longing to be back in those days for even a moment vanished, for I realized my story couldn’t have gone the way it was supposed to if we hadn’t left that house. And leaving wasn’t really an end, but a beginning of something new, something better. Moreover, I discovered how easily I could make what was over seem like it wasn’t.

I hope that is what is happening for my grandma right now. It is as if her dementia has her in a state a bit like the one I was in as I walked through the rooms of my old house. She is living in moments of her life that are over, moments where sometimes her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren don’t even exist. Then every now and again, she is jarred into the present. Despite her failing condition, I would like to think she has points of clarity when she knows we are all here, that the way her life played out was good. Very good. And just as my husband and I will one day have to leave the house we live in now, the one that will always be known as the place where we raised our family, my grandma is facing another move…her final move.

I believe within the deepest chambers of my heart she will be moving on to a place where she doesn’t ever have to nostalgically wish to live in a moment that has passed, or feel as if life is being lived too quickly. She can be cognizant of every person she has loved. She can walk the rooms of any house she ever adored, sit in the desks of any school she ever attended, eat at any restaurant she ever held special, and sit on any Irish hill she ever dreamed of…all at the same moment. She won’t have to experience life in one-second increments. She can be in all the moments, all the time. Her end here with us will be the beginning of hopefully everything for her.

In a word, it will be fluid.

I'm pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there...
I’m pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there…

•••

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Silence and Kindness in the Wake of #Ferguson

The snow came on a Wednesday after the grand jury decision, and brought with it a bit of welcomed quiet on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Yet the very constant and often charged chatter in my newsfeeds remained as loud as ever.

At times like these, social media seems anything but social. That place where I go for mindless entertainment, to catch up on the lives of friends, to give my thumbs up for birthdays and anniversaries, to commiserate about Taylor Swift’s 1989 album suddenly becoming the soundtrack to my daily goings-on thanks to my nine-year-old…that place has looked a lot different. And I don’t always like what I see.

St. Louis is my home, always has been. I do not live in the Ferguson area, but it is the place where my mom grew up, where I still have family and friends. Once upon a time, my husband and I were so charmed with the historic old houses and the sense of community that we considered living there. So it could have been my home. And even if it couldn’t have been, it is still a part of the city I love with a prideful fire. It is surreal to see it on this worldwide stage. Usually, the world pretty much ignores St. Louis, unless it’s the baseball post-season. Even then, it’s not like we’re the Yankees.

Every part of what is now just known as #Ferguson is a tragedy. Loss of life, loss of community, loss of businesses, loss of reputation, loss of faith. It has become something bigger than me, bigger than all of us, and represents many different struggles I often sadly feel are so far from ever being resolved. All I have to do is look at any one of my social media feeds to have that sense of hopelessness driven home. So many people seem so sure about so many things, and so sure there is no room to consider alternatives. Too many people are using blatant, disgusting, and unapologetic tongues of hate. Yet there are just as many people speaking under the guise of progress and righteousness whose underlying messages are no better. Both kinds incite anger, obstinance, and widen the divide.

And then there are those who are quiet. I wonder most about those who are quiet. Some may accuse them of being too cowardly to speak out…or not willing to stir a pot that needs to be stirred…or guilty of that horrid disease known as apathy. Make a difference, silent ones. Choose a side. 

But then I wonder, what if we were all quiet? Not forever. Just for a moment. Long enough to take it all in. Long in enough to block out what everyone else is saying, and simply listen to ourselves. Long enough to consider things another way, without the fear of being judged, or accused of being a traitor, or having to do that awful thing of publicly swallowing our pride to admit someone else might be right.

It is what my friend, who is a social justice teacher, called the spirituality of silence; the idea that truth, understanding, and enlightenment come to us only when we can really quiet ourselves. For some, we are listening for God. For others, it may be whatever inner beliefs guide our sense of righteousness. And often, in that silence, we can find there are truths on all sides. Only in recognizing that can we then successfully work toward justice.

Once words are out there, they are out there forever. We live in a society that encourages, almost demands, immediate reactions. Thomas Merton, a 20th century Trappist monk, once wrote,

“There are many declarations made only because we think other people are expecting us to make them.  The silence of God should teach us when to speak and when not to speak.  But we cannot bear the thought of that silence, lest it cost us the trust and respect of men.”

After the grand jury decision, I felt paralyzed by those expectations. Everyone is posting about it. I should be posting about it. Maybe people think I don’t care. Does my silence speak louder than any words I might say? But I don’t know what to post.

All I did know was that I felt a lot of uncertainty. What’s more, my immediate reaction after the announcement of the grand jury decision looked different than my reaction did the next morning, which looked different from my reaction the next day. Only in my silence could I really see that, understand why that was so, and figure out what that meant for going forward.

So I remain quiet. But please don’t mistake silence for apathy. I am listening. I am deciding what I can do to make things better. I may not have taken to my blog, or to Facebook, or to Twitter, like so many others. But I can tell you what I did do. I smiled at everyone I locked eyes with that day after the grand jury decision. I was more patient behind the wheel. I said thank you a whole lot more. Regardless of how I feel about the events in #Ferguson, I know things are broken in ways that seem too big for me to fix. But for now, I can do my part by being kind, by teaching my children to be kind, and by speaking the language of peace. Those things are contagious. We all know they are.

I will continue to be heartbroken that my city has become the poster-child-of-the-moment for so much of what is wrong with our country. But in my core, I know how many smiled back at me the other day. I see the countless stories of selfless people helping the city of Ferguson rebuild. I am aware there are good citizens organizing groups and coalitions to strengthen our communities and promote peace. I know that what they show on the television is not the whole story. For now, that has to be enough for me, regardless of what I read in my Facebook feed.

People like Jessica Townes and her kindness cards have to be enough for me as well. Jessica posted this on Facebook, and it made its way to me through a friend:

“…for those of you looking for an action piece and don’t know where to start, consider any small act of kindness today. The city is hurting, and moreover, individual lives and struggles continue on. People still have to deal with sick parents, troubled children, job loss, and all of the other trials of daily life. Whether your act is directed at first responders or protestors or a random person on the street, there is little chance the recipient could not use a little extra kindness today.”fergusonkindness

However you feel about #Ferguson, maybe step away from your newsfeeds for awhile to do an act of kindness or two…and do it for someone unlikely, someone outside of your comfort zone.

After all, which of these things is more likely to inspire you to have faith in humanity: a 140 character tweet or a stranger paying for your coffee?

At some point, the snow must melt, and it will be left to all of us to create that sense of calm and peace.

 •••

 A special thanks to my friend John Powell, for teaching me about the spirituality of silence, and to Jessica Townes, for creating the kindness cards and allowing me to share them. You can visit them on their respective blogs, brokenfishblog and On This New Morning…

 

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That Sneaky F-Bomb

Well f*@k.

Just last week, my writing had its first real mass exposure by way of piece about the First Time Mom Freak Out featured on the immensely popular site, Scary Mommy. I won’t be all, well shucks, it sure was a nice little honor. It was EXHILERATING! The fact that more people had shared it on Facebook by 6 a.m. than visit my blog in an entire month was enough to make me feel like Ellen Degeneres must have when her Oscar selfie became the most retweeted tweet ever. 

Yet as fantastic as it was, I winced twice when I finally saw my work in all its viral glory. First, my last name was spelled incorrectly. Sigh. It wasn’t a big surprise. It happens often, not only with strangers, but at my children’s school and even with friends I have known for years. Still, there is a little deflation that comes with seeing it misspelled at those times when it kind of matters to you. But I quickly got over that. I mean, it’s Scary Mommy. Continue reading “That Sneaky F-Bomb”

Baby Changing Stations in the Men’s Bathroom: Gender Stereotypes and The Sister-Brother Relationship

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of. 

Nowadays, we do not find it very enlightened to pigeonhole boys and girls in such a manner. Yet despite society’s ever-increasing openness to gender bending, many children still come to embody the stereotypes, even in the absence of labels or coaching. I see it on a daily basis as the mother of one girl and one boy. My daughter and son also clearly notice the disconnects that sometimes occur because of their differing genders. Continue reading “Baby Changing Stations in the Men’s Bathroom: Gender Stereotypes and The Sister-Brother Relationship”