Thursday, March 29, 2012

The mirror

One day, you look in the mirror and you don't even recognize the person you see there.

Vaguely you remember being a woman who looked kind of like her. Only not like her.

The world was bigger then.

And somewhere in the distance, a stadium full of people tell you to make time for you, to do things you enjoy, to set stricter boundaries. That, they tell you, is the answer.

Only you aren't quite sure who they could be talking to.

And this woman in the mirror, who looks so much older than you think she should, doesn't tell you what she wants.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I want to talk about how I don't want to talk about it

I'm sad today.

And I don't want to talk about it.


Well that makes this an awfully strange blog post doesn't it.

People I admire talk about writing dangerously. About writing for yourself. About putting yourself out there and writing the truth, raw as it is.

But I don't wanna.

People tell me I'm wise. They praise me for being self aware. They ask me how I always know the right thing to say.

And I always think, well the answer to that is stupidly simple. I just don't say anything at all until I know.

Do you want to know how I compose a blog post? I walk around my house talking to myself about it. I go over and over it in my head until the words sound right. Until I hear the point. Until I get what it is I really want to say.

Well, maybe not *this* post.

My writing isn't raw. It's cooked. It's burnt to a crisp in fact.

And I don't want to apologize for that. I don't want to write just for me. I want my writing to have a message, to have a purpose, to do something for other people. And I think that's a good thing.

But sometimes maybe I sound like I'm more finished than I am. Like I'm at the end of it all looking back. Like everything makes sense to me.

Like I don't need a hug.

And I do. I so do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaching kindness

I have a teacher's heart, and there's so much I want to teach my precious little girl. I want to teach her to sign. I want to teach her to read. Sometimes I want to teach her to say "Mike Wazowski" like Boo from Monsters inc.

But mostly? I want to teach her to be kind.

I want to raise a tiny human who knows how to treat everyone around her with love and respect. Who takes care of other people. Who helps. Who knows that right and wrong are about more than just following the rules.

And you know what?

I'm doing it.

My 18 month old shares.

She helps me clean the house (you should see her with a broom).

She gives her stuffed animals to daddy when he's sitting on the couch by himself.

She comforts people who look sad.

She hugs everyone and everything.

She is the sweetest person I have ever met.

And I know why. I want to say that I'm lucky, but the truth is, I know that no matter how many things I get wrong, I am getting the right things right. She knows how to love and how to be loved, how to help, and how to give because it's what she's seen. Because it's how I live my life.

I used to worry about how I would teach her empathy, how I would make sure she never became a bully. I don't worry as much anymore.

In my life, I've been a good student, a good teacher, a good friend. I've done a lot of work that I'm really proud of. But my life's work now? This small person who looks like me? Makes me prouder than any of it.

I'm linking up with Charity for the Mother's Pride Carnival. What are you proudest of as a mother?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest post: She

Today's guest post is from a dear friend of mine who wants to remain somewhat anonymous to protect the identity of her subject. It's about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, our tendency to compare and the fundamental need for empathy and compassion. (I've written about it a few times, if you were wondering.) But this intro is already too long, this beautiful post stands on its own.

She lives her life to the minute. Plans.every.second. Her babies were molded to fit the recommendations of Dr. so-and-so. Every morning, her alarm goes off at 3:50. Snooze buttons are for sissies.

Gym from 4:15-4:50. Tag husband for his gym slot. Shower. Hair. Makeup. Coffee, paper, news. Husband returns. Kiss him. Leave for work at 6:15. Husband readies the children and takes them to school. Work. Get everything done. Prove she’s superwoman. Polite lunch talk. Talk with friends about how perfect life is going. About the vacation that's planned and paid for in cash, how awful it was that the toddler had the nerve to throw his food on the floor and act out in church. Talk about the luxury car and how it needs to be detailed. Go to the grocery store for exactly 1/2 hour one day a week to get the week's groceries. Stress that she buys generic because she’s a penny pincher. Handle everything with grace, and then some. Head home at 3:15. Grab children. Activity for an hour. Make home cooked meal. Baths at 6:30. Two stories and bed by 7:20. Clean the house. In bed by 8:45. Do it again.

Did I mention she's tall, thin, and beautiful, her husband is good looking, and her kids are the perfect mix of all of their good features?

Of course they are.

This girl has dirty secrets. But she doesn't like to tell people that she suffers from a debilitating disease. That she grew up poor in a tiny rural community. That she's the classic psychological profile for middle child syndrome: must be better than my older sister, must care for myself because my parents have to care for my special needs sister who's (now) in a group home. That she lost her mom to cancer 2 weeks before the birth of her first child. That she lost that child's twin at 12 weeks gestation.

No one saw her grieve for her mother because her 12 week maternity leave coincided with mourning.

She manages her life in order to hide the disease.

She closes her door when things are out of place.

She works overtime to make sure that no one sees anything but the perfect.

She has worked hard in school and in her profession to get herself as far as she can as fast as she can. She deserves the success she's brought upon herself.


She doesn't realize that her words about her perfect life hurt others who are not as fortunate.

She doesn't realize that planning for the future isn't a possibility for some. She forgets what it's like to rob Peter the electric bill to pay Paul the grocer.

She forgets that the emergency fund for some is the $100 stashed in an underwear drawer, not six months worth of a six figure salary.

Some see her as a robot, moving through the motions. Some as a spoiled diva with no grip on real life.

Someone not-so-gently informed me last week that she’s not well liked.

That she’s the mean girl in the office.

But this is how I see it:

She's just a mom, doing it the best way she knows how. She's my friend. The one that organized my office baby shower, babysat my son for free, and let me take a nap under my desk when I was exhausted from working overtime in my first trimester but couldn't tell anyone else I was pregnant. She's the one that convinced her husband to do our wills pro-bono, because every time we had the spare money, our 1993 hand-me-down houpti would eat it. She's the one that buys my office birthday cake and remembers my favorite things. She loves her children more fiercely than I've ever seen. She brings me my favorite coffee on special days and understands that some days my depression forces me to close my door and do my work with tears streaming down my face.

Lest I forget? She knew I was pregnant before I did. She urged me to take that test before I even believed it was a possibility. That's how well she knows me. That’s how dedicated a friend she is.

Yes, she's hurt my feelings with her words about others many a time. She forgets that I can't pay cash for car repairs and the last "vacation" I had was to see my in-laws. I usually don't tell her when I take offense, because she's not trying to be malicious. The times I've tried, it turns out that her feelings have been hurt by people telling her that her life is a fairy tale. In her mind, her friends do just as well as she does. We make smart choices and we dot our I's and cross our T's, just like she does.

She doesn't see why everyone can't live the life she leads. Her memories of the hard parts are either pushed so far back in her memory, or she skipped over those parts because she married a man who worked his tail off to make sure he'd never have to live those hard parts.

I’m learning that you never know a person’s whole story. But if they DO let you in to those deep, dark places? It might be that you’re trusted with secrets dark enough that a person is willing to accept negative views from others in exchange for a few genuine, fierce friendships.

Ignorance is bliss. Perfection is a myth. Sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will never hurt me.

Sometimes, they do. But mean girls need love, too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You aren't broken

Yesterday was a bad day.

We haven't been sleeping around here, and it's bothering me more and more. I woke up yesterday angry and resentful, and all I could think was "How am I supposed to parent all day if I'm already this angry?"

I threw my toddler in the jogging stroller, mid tantrum, in her pajamas, and went out running to keep from exploding. I got home, changed my clothes and went straight to a playgroup. Keeping busy was the only way I could keep us from making each other crazy.

In the car, I started to feel better. She'd run herself silly at the playgroup. She'd take an early and long nap after. I could rest and recover, then we'd run some more in the afternoon. Maybe, just maybe, we'd finally sleep at night.

Then she woke from her nap in less than an hour and all my hope dropped through the floor. I couldn't keep going. I couldn't run all afternoon. I couldn't make her sleep at the right times. I couldn't fix it.

I was so angry, and I couldn't fix it.

Oh. So that's what I was upset about.

I need to run, I need to write, I need to sleep more. I need to eat right, I need to drink more water.

But I need to do all these things because I am a human being with basic needs. I don't need to do them to fix me.

Because I'm not broken.

And you? You don't need to be fixed either. Because YOU AREN'T BROKEN.

We need things because we are human beings. You need nourishment, you need love, you need purpose. Sometimes you need more than that; sometimes you are sick and you need treatment or you are struggling and you need help.

But there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you. You are already perfect, just like your baby is already perfect even when she isn't sleeping.

One more time, now, in case you didn't hear.

It's okay to need things. It makes you human. You aren't broken. You are already perfect.

If you don't hear it yet, come back and read it again later. And again and again. I'll be here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Life's lessons: Being 18 months old

  1. Being 18 months old is hard.
  2. Even if you know sign language? You suddenly realize how many things are that you want to say but can't.
  3. And then you say things like "A bababa da da squa squa daaaaat."
  4. And throw a temper tantrum when your mom doesn't give you what you want.
  5. While mom cries in a corner or says "JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT."
  6. Even though, duh, mom. You're trying.
  7. I know.
  8. And when you're 18 months old, it's also hard to wait for things.
  9. And hard to reason out why on earth mom would think you would want to start nursing less.
  10. Or, you know, sleep through the night.
  11. Or stay inside when it's raining out.
  12. I know.
  13. It's hard to be 18 months old.
  14. You only have to do it for one month, though, kiddo, so hang on.
  15. But it's hard to wait.
  16. I know.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In which I talk about bullying, but I do it somewhere else

I'm guest posting for the lovely Rach at Life Ever Since today, talking about mean girls and my experience with bullying when I was teaching.

It was a hard post for me to write and not just because it's hard for me to remember anything that happened more than a year ago. Bullying is a big deal, and a cause that's near and dear to my heart. I don't have the answers, but - and call me a cheese ball if you must - I'm pretty sure the solution is love and understanding. And kindness.

Or course it is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Twitter, I love you, but you're bringing me down.

There is so much I love about twitter. The immediacy, the intimacy, the reach. How quickly I can get an answer to a question. How I can always find at least 8 people who agree with my philosophies on both parenting and punctuation.

But lately, it feels so small.

You can fit a lot of snark into 140 characters. But you can't fit a life.

I want to be seen. I want to be known. I want to be understand. And everything in my life can only be understood in the context of everything else in my life.

It's so tempting. It's so tempting to just get on twitter in the middle of the afternoon and say "Oh hello world, I'm so witty, look at meeeeeeeee!" And when it works it is so reinforcing. Which makes it so hard to stop.

But I'm not saying what I need to say. I'm simplifying things I should be expanding. And I'm waiting like an eager, well trained puppy for someone to hand me something I'm supposed to be looking for myself.

And more and more instead of the thrill, I'm feeling a twitter let down. "Why did no one answer that tweet? It was brilliant! Why does no one know I'm sitting here waiting for an entry into conversation? Why does no one understand what I'm really trying to say?"

And more and more I feel like Prufrock.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I know that twitter is a tool. I just don't think I'm using it right.