Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inner Peace

Ok, here's my new motto: "One day at a time, let it be, carpe diem, que sera sera..." I think you all get my drift. I don't do well living in a constant state of worry with the anticipation of sorrow or impending doom. I end up paralyzed in my favorite chair obsessively messing with the computer while slowly flipping between HGTV and Food Network, all the while slowly falling into a candy induced stupor. I have worried on 5 pounds this summer. I was supposed to reinvent myself this summer and lose weight. Although to be fair, that has been my goal every summer since the age of 13. Most people have new year's resolutions. I have new school year resolutions (or is it aspirations?).

Well, so far I seem to be keeping the worry at bay (is that the right bay?). I give a lot of credit to Doctor Who. Yes really. If you haven't watched it, what are you waiting for? Even my stick in the mud husband watches it. It's the only show he watches that isn't a sport or doesn't have people finding and pontificating upon their old junk.

Anyway, back to Doctor Who. The most recent episodes that we have watched have focused on a "fixed point in time." Ok, so if there are fixed points in time, my hoping, wishing, and worrying about them won't help. Right? So, I'm on a campaign of living in the moment. I don't know how long this will last, but I'll do my best!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Days Like These

When I am old and gray, it will be days like these that I wish to remember. It was just a plain day, nothing big organized or planned, but perfect in it's simplicity. Caroline and I went over to my mother's house to help her pack for our upcoming trip to Florida. She is feeling better and we laughed and joked with my step-father, just like normal.

I came home and went with Rob to Kohls to use my Kohls Cash. We walked through the store holding hands listening to Ho Hey over the PA system and testing out the softness of towels. We departed the store into a rainstorm allowing us the perfect chance to test the absorbency of the new towels. I strolled through the parking lot wrapped in my new towel happy and laughing.

After dinner, I pushed Lily through violin practice and actually got 10 minutes of beautiful focused music out of her. She has learned to make music instead of screeching. We ended the evening giggling over highly inappropriate potty themed jokes (it is what we do best), then finally settling down, happy and tired, to watch Doctor Who.

Simple perfection.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This summer has been such a contradiction. All at once it has been full of sorrow, frustration, and moments of intense breathtaking wonder. I've written about the sorrow and frustration, but there has also been such joy that I just want to stop and yell "Freeze! I need to memorize this moment."

Watching my best friend play with my restless goofy daughter and then make both girls giggle with inappropriate jokes.

My awesome cousin staying with Lily so Caroline and I could go visit my mother in the hospital. That same cousin's brilliant suggestion that we spend that evening watching Sharknado.

Meeting up with old treasured friends at a local bar and remembering that I am more than simply an overwhelmed teacher, exhausted mother, patient wife, and loving daughter. Also, remembering that it is okay to laugh when your heart is breaking, as a matter of fact it just might be vital.

Dancing with Caroline and my other best friend in the rain at a Fun. concert. Feeling like the most awesome mother in the world as we screamed and high fived.

Watching Lily leave her frustration and confusion behind to make her baby cousin laugh. I don't know which child glowed more.

Introducing my oldest to the brilliance that is Sufjan Stevens.

Spending the afternoon wandering the mall with both girls and getting Caroline her coveted "hipster glasses."

Sure preceding or following each moment there was frustration, sorrow, or both. Last week, a friend posted the following "To worry is to meditate on the negative." Okay, so positive it is.

Monday, July 22, 2013


The other morning, Caroline woke up and told me that she had a dream with a soundtrack. I love that! Often as I am driving around, I create a soundtrack in my head. I have even chosen theme songs over the years. I am especially moved when I am driving on a long trip and the music makes me feel like I am in an independent film. Caroline and I like to turn to each other and declare "indie film moment!"

Music is a huge part of my life. I have always loved alt rock and folk, regardless of the decade. There seem to be certain albums/artists that remind me so much of pivotal moments in my life. Unfortunately, most of those revolve around death. Ironically, hearing them doesn't make me sad; it makes me happy. Even though I listened to them at some of the saddest moments of my life, they trigger the happiest memories. It is especially wonderful when I hear the songs unexpectedly.

My father loved U2. We played a lot of U2 the weekend after his passing. To this day, whenever I here "With or Without You" it feels like a special hello from my father. The summer before my Gramma Hill passed away, I was hooked on Illinois by Sufjan Stevens. I spent the whole time driving around CT listening to it. On a side note, it is one of the most brilliant albums I've ever heard. That March, Cat Stevens' Footsteps in the Dark was in the CD player. I listened to it all the way to the hospital. There was a surprise March snow. I remember how ironic it was the I was driving through such a beautiful scene, listening to beautiful music, on the way to one of the saddest moments of my life.

 This summer it has been The Lumineers. I first listened to the album when I was driving to GA. It was the perfect "indie film moment." Lily and I were driving down a tree lined southern highway, finding pictures in the cloud and listening to fun acoustic music. You can also add Fun. to that list now. Last weekend, Caroline and I went to see them with one of my best friends and her daughter. It ended up storming and we rocked out in the rain, feeling like the coolest mothers in the world.


Apparently, I have a parenting style. Up until now, I've thought it was "slacker/attachment parenting with bursts of irritability." I have also described it as the "Miss Havisham's Garden Method". Caroline has described it as the "Mom Does Not Give Two Fs Approach" (let's say the Fs stand for "flying figs). After reading the awesome post "The CTFD Method", I guess I am a minimalist parent. Mind you, I have done minimal research (cue snare drum) into the method, since I have better thing to do than look into my parenting style. I am busy, wait for it, being a parent.

 In the summer, a lot of that involves me encouraging the children to "figure it out." I am terrible at entertaining my kids. As I have stated over and over, when I have a moment to myself (that is when I am not cleaning, organizing, or driving) I can be found reading or messing about on the computer. The fact that I expect my kids to go outside and play without coming in and whining seems to classify me as a minimalist parent. Well cool beans, I am part of a movement!

Note: Click the CTFD link, it is awesome!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


My final text to my brother last night was "I love you. Now get some sleep." It is so much easier to give that advice than to take it. I don't have much trouble going to sleep, but without fail, I wake up at 4:00a.m. with my head swimming. I worry about my mom, my students, Lily. Sometimes these early morning "fret-fests" can be productive. I can brainstorms lists, and once soothed, with a plan my brain can relax and let me get some more sleep. This week that isn't an option.

My mom is in the hospital. She has fought so hard and been so very optimistic, but I don't think that will be enough. It might seem like I am at peace with this, but inside there is a very angry little persons stomping her feet, bicycling her legs, and yelling "No!" I am not ready to lose my mother. Call me arrogant, but I feel like I've lost enough people. I've lost pretty much everyone who raised me. It makes me so angry that they aren't and won't be here to help raise my girls. I grew up in a big "crazy" family with a group mentality in raising children. Whether it was by choice or necessity, I don't know. It was pretty awesome to have had so many people loving me and believing in me. I used to think that being born into such a young family meant that they would be around for a long time. Now I think that I was born into a young family because they weren't going to be here for long.

Losing my mom never for once seemed like an option. I need to let this happen on her terms and with dignity. As always I will be reasonable. It is not a very exciting personality trait, but it has been the one that has served me the best. There is nothing that I can do to stop this. That is the hardest part. I am always in control of so many things. When they get out of control, I can usually spin the situation to work out anyway. Maybe that's why I have spent so much time watching HGTV this summer. I can't control my world, so I am going to watch shows where people can take control and change everything.

I need to let this go and turn over control. As much as I want to know why and I want to shout about the unfairness of this, there is nothing that can be done. Sometimes the answer is simply an unsatisfactory "because."

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Far We've Come

There really isn't much on T.V. these days and I can't possibly watch anymore news. It really doesn't help me stay focused or positive. I remember when Rob and I first moved into together, he would come in from the late shift at the restaurant to find me on the coach crying and in a mild panic. He was greeted with "We can't eat fast food hamburgers anymore!" or "How safe is our checking account?" Without batting and eyelash he'd calmly ask "Which news show were you watching? How about you just stop watching news shows?" That eventually morphed into "Enough of the freakin' news shows! They just upset you!" Rob has always had this ability to appear calm. I know the true Rob, but he puts on the best front. You would never catch him running around in a tizzy about all of the potential dangers in the world. That is probably because he's too busy ranting about baby boomers or the 1%.

Anyway, here I go off on another tangent. The point is that instead of watching the news, I have been deep in the blogeshere. I have found great blogs that are new to me. They have much jazzier than mine, but still speak to me. In all of this time, I still feel like those in the blogesphere are my friends (no need to question my grip on reality). It helps to know that I am not alone. I am not alone in being a tired wife, overwhelmed teacher, exhausted parent, or worried daughter. But more than the sad stuff, I am not alone in keeping my sense of humor. So many of the blogs that I've linked to have been started from loss and great pain, but have found joy and humor in the daily craziness of being human.

I have also looked back at some of my earlier posts. I am still proud of everything that I have written. I am most proud that my humor has remained intact. It has been over five years of silly stories, bad spelling, questionable grammar, and me hanging my laundry out for all to see. My focus and station in life has shifted some. There might not be as many funny Lily stories (She's still pretty damn funny, but totally inappropriate. There is some laundry that is best left in the hamper. ). I think what started out as a blog about being a mother has turned into a blog about a mother. I am interested to see where the next five years go. I know it will be bumpy. I am pretty sure that I am ready. The only thing that I know for sure is my grammar and spelling probably won't improve. Hey, in the world of cross stitch we say "It's the flaws that make it one of a kind." Ok, I made that up, but it should be a quote!


There are these moments when it feels like everything going on in the world is upsetting and scary. I know that bad things happen all the time at all points in history. Some days I either must be more aware or more sensitive or the media is just in my face more than usual.

Case in point, this weekend. I crawled into bed Saturday night. Rob opened one eye and asked "What's up?" I replied "Well, George Zimmerman got off and the washer flooded. I'm surprised you didn't hear the cussin'. Oh and they shut down Rt 28 because a cow is running up and down the highway." Rob rolled back over and went back to sleep. I have to admit, after being so upset over George Zimmerman, Caroline and I had a good laugh at the idea of police chasing a cow on the dark highway for over an hour. Was it funny because we were upset or because we have a sick sense of humor? Both probably. Mopping up gallons of cold washer water was a nice distraction as well.

I have been following people's opinions about the case via my Facebook and Caroline's Twitter. My frustration is that the man was told not to chase the boy in the first place. It feels like vigilantes have been given the go ahead. Think back to you as a teenager. Were you always approachable? Always polite? Did you look normal (come on '80's folks)? I can remember all the hassling that my long haired "hippie freak" brother got when he flew down the country roads driving his car covered with Grateful Dead stickers. That same "delinquent" is now a wonderful husband and father.

Teens tend to go through a period of flat out "dumb-assery." At times they seem like frightening alien beings. The fact of the matter is they are still children. Sure, they think they have all of the answers. No one has stronger convictions and opinions than my 15 year old daughter. Sometimes she is right, sometimes she is not. This is her time to form herself and develop her opinions. Rob and I provide her the guidance and safety she needs for that, but every time she leaves our house I am so afraid for her.

My child hardly looks like a threat. She is a self-proclaimed "blond-haired, blue eyed bookworm." However, she does have quite a mouth. If I recorded one of the many heated conversations that have occurred here behind closed doors, you would think that she is a willful, spoiled rotten brat (she would use a different b word). We live in an amazingly diverse area. Consequentially, Caroline friends span various classes, cultures, and races.

I am very naive. I thought that living here, it would never be a problem. Such a dreamer, am I. Caroline's boyfriend is from Bolivia. He is a sweet, bright boy. He makes stupid "boy mistakes" that piss Caroline and I off and make Rob laugh. Whenever, I share his latest stupid move, Rob laughs and counters "rookie mistake." However, he clearly really cares for my girl. She picked him because he listens to the same indie rock, watches sci-fi and action movies, and loves super heroes. Together, they move along through the suburbs waiting for the day to spread their hipster wings.

When she first told me that they were catching flack about being a couple, I shrugged her off as being dramatic (she is a 15 year old girl after all). Then came the 7-11 day. Her boyfriend has a very dark complexion and a "Roman" nose. I guess I can see how an idiot would make assumptions about his racial background (notice the word idiot). They went to get Slurpees at 7-11 and the clerk had to make a point of asking where he was from. He is used to this and politely responded "Bolivia." Then the clerk had to look at Caroline and make a loaded point "Well, I guess you aren't from Bolivia." Remember Caroline's mouth? Remember what I said about our guidance? Well she knows enough not to use that mouth against adults because she simply replied "You're right." She was upset, but her boyfriend is used to it. I am glad that she knew enough not to show it because then he would have felt the need to defend her honor etc. Just recently, one of her friends grabbed the phone from Caroline when she was talking to him and yelled that he should go back across the boarder to his own country. Caroline was outraged, I was three kinds of pissed, and he let it roll off of his back. He told her he's used to it and doesn't let it bother him. I have decided that he is a pretty good kid.

Both times, I wasn't there. According to Caroline that's a good thing. "Mom," she says "you need to calm down. Getting all pissed only makes it worse." I guess going through my "hippy phase" during her formative years payed off.

I am not sure what all the answers are. Rob isn't as upset; he can list a dozen or more worse things going on in the world. He's right, but I can't turn a blind eye to a teen who was killed because of assumptions and wrong headed perceptions. It is our job to protect and guide our teenagers. To see them into adulthood. That opportunity was stolen from Trayvon Martin's parents. They will never get the chance to see him grow up and all of the possibilities that were there.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hope, Faith, and Reality

I'll keep this opening paragraph short in keeping with my philosophy of not telling others' stories.  I must admit this is a hard policy to keep since the lives of so many people overlap with mine. My mother's cancer has returned in her shoulder. She needs to start chemo again right away. She had such difficult time with the last round. I am worried about her. I am also concerned because the cancer returned so soon after stopping treatment. I guess, I am hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

I should be an expert at grief by now. I am not. I have lost so many people that I love in so many different ways. It never gets easier. There is something about grief that brings out platitudes in others. Honestly, they don't know what to say, so they say what they have heard or what feels comforting or what makes them feel less uncomfortable/less helpless. There is the tendency to feel that you must comfort and assure those who are comforting you. Your heart is broken in ten million pieces and you're assuring people that you are fine and they don't need to worry about you. It is almost worse with strangers. You wish that you had a sign to wear as you wander around the store like a zombie. I can see some of the reasoning in the old custom of wearing black when you are in mourning. It seems to have given a universal symbol of tread lightly/leave me alone.

Thanks to modern technology, I was able to update the few friends who were following with me via email/text. I ended with "I am not ready to talk yet." I was not trying to be rude. I just needed to get out the facts without getting sidetracked by emotions. One friend called me immediately to tell me stories of my students during summer school. That did the trick. I need to keep my mind busy and not dwell on what-ifs. This is the hardest thing for me. I have this convoluted idea that if I pray enough and do enough good things everything will work out. This is just another one the character traits that I blame on my early reading of Pollyanna. How can one book be such a positive and negative influence? I am the living proof.

For now there is nothing to do but stay busy. I am crafting and cleaning like a fool. I know that sooner or later I will crash hard. There will be an epic melt down over the stupidest thing. I would like to apologize in advance to every who will be caught in the crossfire.

P.S. Mom, I am not even sure if you still read this. Please don't be upset with me. I process through writing.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Stages and Phases

Pretty much from age three on, parenting seems to truck along smoothly. There are behavior hiccups, but the biggies (sleep, potty training, walking etc.) have been covered. When Caroline was an infant, I read child development books religiously. By three, it seemed like we had it down. I switched over to craft magzines and kicked back and enjoyed my kid. Things weren't perfect, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't handle (Rob keeps reminding me of this with Miss Lily). Then the next phase hit: teenager!

There seems to be countless magazines, books, shows, and advice about infants-toddlers. Teens? Not so much. Last month I was looking through Catherin Newman's blog Ben and Birdy. She recommended the special teen edition of Brain Child Magazine. I ordered it and it was brilliant!!!!! I feel like I found dozens of new best friends who had seen right in to my house. It was mostly full of essays chronicling different aspects of parenting teenagers.

I get asked by friends and acquaintances "What's it like having a teenager?" Honestly, I am pretty lucky. Caroline is sweet and a bit of a homebody. She is so very bright (however don't tell her that, she seems to be allergic to profuse praise) and motivated (in her own narrow focus of film, literature, and music). She is unbelievably witty and such a smart ass (I should reprimand her more often, but I am too busy trying not to laugh). After a very rough patch last year, we have reached a common ground. There are still times when she drives me crazy (could the same drive to know every independent music artist be channeled towards dishes? laundry? spending time with her sister?).

One of the most poignant essays was about letting go. That's where I am now. Most of my major adult stages passed without a hiccup. Thirty? No big deal, I was born thirty, it was just a coming of age. 40 didn't really bother me either. However, I can already tell that Caroline going off to college is going to hit me hard. Ever since she got to tour VCU, she is determined to go there. She worked her butt off this year to get good enough grades (which she did and then some). I know that leaving her at school is going to break my heart. If we do our jobs as parents well, they are ready to leave and be successful. Rob and I have given parenting our all, so it stands to reason that both girls will leave and soar. This summer feels so bitter sweet and is flying by. Three years will pass in a blink.

Friday, July 5, 2013


I've been a little anxious lately. Between working with Lily (up and down process) and worrying about my mom, I have been feeling a little "twitchy." I am trying to direct that excess energy in a more positive way. I am trying to exercise a bit more ( I have "stress eaten" back every pound that I've lost) and working on the house.

I have gone through every upstairs room performing the yearly "gut." I've cleaned and organized. I have also talked Rob into painting. We bought 5 gallons of paint for Lily's room, our room, the kitchen, the guest room, and touch up in the living room. It's my HGTV moment! We started Lily's room today. It looks so cute!

I'm also going to try to do a little bit of pampering next week: new glasses tomorrow, pedicure with a couple of friends next week, and a haircut. Baby steps, baby steps.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tour Guide for a Martian Child

Summers tend to be the time when I bring the kids and house back in line. This summer's project is Lily. I have often alluded to the fact that Lily arrived in this world without the manuals for her or us. We don't always know what to do with her and she doesn't know what to do with people in general. If you don't know her, she would seem like a brat or a snot. The fact is there are two Lilys. There is the charming, hysterical, bubbly Lily that we see at home. She is the reason that I began this blog in the first place. The second Lily is wary, overwhelmed, painfully shy, and angry that just as she learns the rules, they go and change.

I have been bringing her into public situations that make her uncomfortable. I stand back and watch her scan the room. She seems to go through her mental list and figures out what to do first. There are many adults in the world who seem to understand my girl and give her room to figure things out. However, there are just as many who seem to think they know how to "fix" my kid. They alternate between bullying and joking. That is exactly the wrong thing to do. You can't push Lily into a situation or out of a mood. She needs time to collect her thoughts and formulate a plan. The quickest way to lose her trust is to change from moment to moment how you interact with her. I think this is part of the reason that she has so much trouble interacting with kids her own age; they are too unpredictable.

I have the same approach to parenting that I do to gardening. Every spring, I buy my favorite flower seeds, scatter them in the garden, and then get out of the way and let them grow. My garden is different every year in a delightfully quirky "Miss Havisham" way. The same philosophy goes for my kids. As long as they are kind, helpful, and do their best, I stay out of their way. I never pushed Caroline, she just did her thing and turned into this awesome person. I have caught flack about my methods before. For most of her early years, other mothers implied that Caroline wasn't quiet up to par. Now she's in advanced classes, so I guess I did know what I was doing.

The same applies to Lily. She'll need more direction than her sister. I lay most things out as rules to follow. Of course for every rule she learns she encounters 30 exceptions. I am well aware of what many mothers are probably thinking as we walk away. While I'm walking her to the car praying that she doesn't lose it because she overwhelmed, looks are being exchanged. Once we're gone I am sure there will be "If she were my child...." She makes progress everyday.

Our family has a long history of having one child per generation who walks a harder path than most. I think with patience  I can guide her down that path. My family isn't alone. There are scores of children who march to the beat of their own drum. People seem to be more aware of this than ever before. Just look at popular T.V. You've got Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory and Brick on The Middle. I seem to have built a career out of guiding "Martian children" through life. I guess I am the Pied Piper of the pissed off and confused:) I wouldn't have it any other way.