Milestones and Mermaids

Hannah eyeing the pregnant lady in the lounge chair, we made our way over to a shaded table to plunk down our towels and kick off flip flops for an afternoon poolside. The kids love the pool. Without fail they inquire the precise time we will be going to swim each morning. Kids off and splashing I sit down and smile at the lady and preemptively apologize for my daughter’s obsessive staring. She laughed and we chatted for a bit.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but time has a way of warp-speeding when viewed through a rear view mirror. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been a decade since I was first pregnant myself. But here I sit with an almost 8 and 10 year old, chatting with a young mom.

There have been some big milestones in our world. These self-proclaimed big kids are riding bikes to the nearby playground, exploring our new place – stepping into their first bits of independence. I remember wondering about my then-infant and toddler when my sister and her daughters came to visit us in Hawaii. It seemed like so long until I would be able to just enjoy our time swimming instead of worrying and being on patrol, ensuring safety. I remember marveling at moms who sat poolside looking at their phones while their kids played and swam, part of me loving playing in the water, part of me longing for the day when they would find friends and play on their own.

That’s motherhood in a nutshell, I suppose – being divided. Not only daily working ourselves out of a job to grow independent and hopefully productive adult humans, but also wondering what the next step will look like, while simultaneously reminiscing about previous phases.

Flash forward to our time in Texas where they both had swim lessons and became comfortable in the water. Playing in the waves on South Padre Island still made me nervous, yet they had no fear, jumping and giggling as waves crashed and tried to knock them over.

Here I sit today, book in hand, sipping on an iced coffee (because I have waded through cardboard seas to rescue my coffeemaker from an ocean of chaos) .

Yet another little step, them in the pool making friends, practicing tricks and flips and jumps. My mermaid and merman happy to swim and soak in all of summer in our new home.

“Mom?” Hannah asks, as we gather up our stuff to leave when the need for food overpowers the need to be submerged.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Will you swim with us tomorrow? I love swimming and meeting friends, but tomorrow I’d like to swim with you, like we did in Texas.”

“Sure thing Hannah,” I say smiling.

I think we’re going to like it here.

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April Fools’ Day

“Hey Hannah,” I said, motioning her over to her Easter basket loot. “Do you remember eating these?” I asked, pointing to the Cadbury mini eggs.

“No….well, kind of…” she replied.

“These are your dad’s FAVORITE Easter candies. I thought you’d really like them, too,” I explained. Ever trying to include a deployed parent into daily life is a hallmark of military life.

“Wait. So …YOU –  bought – these? At a store?” Hannah asked slowly.

CRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAPCRAP

The jig is up. She knows. And I let it slip!

“I KNEW IT!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. “It makes no sense how a bunny can get all over the world and hide eggs. It just doesn’t make sense.”

I took a deep breath and sighed. Their days had been numbered. The past few years, my very curious and inquisitive (read: suspicious) children have been tiptoeing around the subjects of various holidays….and holiday characters. I had wondered how many holidays we had left where they still believed whole heartedly.  I knew it was coming. It was part of the reason I knew doing the elf this past year was a necessity, as they would soon cross the threshold of childhood and a layer of magic would disappear. When they asked questions, I would respond with the classic, “What do you think?” and they would hem and haw, just like I did when I was a kid, and I would fool myself into thinking I had bought them just a little more time on the innocence clock.

There was no more hitting the snooze button. Whether I wanted to or not, it was time for the conversation. I busted out the letter I had written (adapted from one online) and read it to them:

Dear Jacob and Hannah,

I heard you discussing the difference between magic and miracles a while ago and how Santa does what he does. (As well as the easter bunny and the tooth fairy.) You brought up some really good points. Your dad and I know you like to have the facts and answers about things. We have given it careful thought to know just what to say.

The short answer is you are right. There is no such thing as magic in the literal sense. Magic is an illusion. We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree, hide the easter eggs, and put the money under your pillow when you lose a tooth – just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you might one day do for kids of your own. There is no one single Santa, or E.B. These holiday figures are lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of these holidays alive. It lives in our hearts – not at the North Pole.

Throughout your life you will need the capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and most importantly, in God. You’ll need to be able to believe in things you cannot measure or touch – just because we cannot see them doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

You are also right in that there are such things as miracles – things that cannot be measured, held, or explained in a concrete way; things like love, gratitude, and hope. The idea of Santa represents the miracle of these unmeasurable things. It teaches children to believe in something they cannot see or touch, much like we cannot see or touch Jesus, or the wind, friendship, or love – we can feel it and know it is there. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas – the miracle that God came to Earth! Santa is a way for little kids to begin to understand such miracles.

We feel you are ready to know the truth. With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping complete the jobs that would otherwise be impossible. We celebrate Christmas and Easter using symbols and characters that represent hard-to-explain miracles.

Now that you know, you will get to carry on the spirit of these holidays with us!

Love,
Mom and Dad

Feeling a bit wobbly, I looked up from my screen after reading it aloud. Hannah was grinning, “It’s okay, mom!” she said reassuringly, trying to comfort me! I chuckled.

“I totally knew,” stated Jake. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Do you feel betrayed? Like we lied to you all these years?” I asked, curious to know their perspective.

“NO!” they both emphatically agreed. “It makes sense to explain things like that to little kids. We just aren’t little kids anymore,” shrugged Jake, always Mr. Matter-of-fact about things, while Hannah nodded her agreement. We continued discussing the secrets that Eric and I had kept from them all these years. With each new revelation, they would giggle and laugh at our craftiness.

“So, what about the Santa gifts?” Hannah asked. “The tags?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” I replied, smiling. “Your dad and I would buy one special roll of wrapping paper that you had never seen before. That would be “Santa’s Paper”. Then one package of tags would also be new. I would write Santa’s tags with my left hand so the handwriting would be just a bit different.”

“DUDE!” Jacob yelled, laughing. “That’s SO awesome! I never even noticed that!”

“And the elf?” Hannah asked quietly.

I braced myself. She LOVES the elf. Like really loves it.

“Me,” I quietly replied.

“YOU DID THOSE SNOWFLAKES!? And the little paintings?! Wow….” she marveled.

“Mom,” Jacob said distractedly while he continued playing his computer game, “You are really good. That must have taken a lot of work.”

While trying not to be pile of emotional mom-goo at their appreciation of my expert level of deception, I turned to Hannah and whispered, “Now you can be in on the fun, too! We can take turns with the elf, you and I can hide it for Jake and Daddy one day, then they can do it for us the next….”

“Oh yes!!! Can we plan it out right now?!” she asked, jumping up and down.

I laughed. “No. It’s April. We got time, sister,” I told her. This April fools’ day, the “fooling” may be over, but the magic will never end.

Go Big or Go Home

I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to write about lately. Much of that comes from just being too busy, tired, in the midst of deployment, blah, whatever – to put forth the energy to make coherent sentences. I often identify with Solomon in Ecclesiastes…”there is nothing new under the sun” Ecc. 1:4-11 when it comes to writing, but just when I think ‘why should I bother, it’s all been written before anyway’ – I’m quickly reminded that I don’t write necessarily for others. If someone benefits from my experiences, that’s wonderful. I’m grateful to be a conduit of a message needed, but I don’t write for anyone but myself. It’s a release, a creativity, a hobby, a sorting of my thoughts, and a clarity-giver. Sometimes I just don’t know how I feel until it escapes my fingertips, flying across the keyboard faster than my mind can form the paragraph. While we’ve been getting through the blah days and the good days, walking the dogs, I’ve been reading and thinking. My niece wrote this post about her wellness journey, and all that it entails and it got my mind churning again. I’m also celebrating a milestone.

I have been sober for 6 months.

The thought of a glass of wine sometimes sounds so good. The delicious swirl flicking across my tongue, the warm flush as the alcohol enters my system. I daydream about it sometimes. Not often, but when I do, it’s vivid. I have become hyper-aware of both the overt and subtle marketing of alcohol to women. Across social media, you can easily see either a movie featuring a female lead drinking, or a funny meme with ‘mommy juice’ as the topic, and even fitness-themed posts such as beer-yoga and lifting the barbell, with a convenient bottle taped securely, one rep = one swig. Isn’t fitness grand?! A wry smile crosses my face, but I really don’t find them funny. I find them to be… normalizing. Normalizing behavior that really isn’t healthy, but I admit the marketing strategy is effective. Smoking was mainstream and normal once, too. They were and are marketing geniuses.

At the beginning of this sobriety path, I started taking selfies and little mini-check in videos. Not as a vanity measure, but as some evidence of the beginning of change, where my head was at on a given day, and/or any physical changes due to the change over to a whole-food plant based way of eating. Watching the initial video, I was startled at how puffy I was, and how tired I looked. In hindsight, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, there too.

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Day 1, still shot taken from a video.

The last 6-7 months have encompassed many changes – giving up alcohol as well as switching to a whole-food plant based way of eating. I decided to stop coloring my hair almost a year ago, and actually wanted to go super short then – but couldn’t get my stylist on board. Embracing authenticity in many areas, it has been a season of shedding the superfluous – including hair that for as long as I can remember has almost had an identity of it’s own.  No, I didn’t have a Brittney-style meltdown, but simply feeling the need for some outward expression of inward changes.

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I probably won’t keep it short forever, but I love the idea of a fresh clean break. A starting over and a reboot. It’s freeing in a way I didn’t anticipate. As I picked up the kids from school sporting the new ‘do, I felt lighter, bolder, and honestly – pretty badass. I always thought women who go pixie or bald were so brave. I remember staring in awe as Demi Moore shaved her head in G.I. Jane. “If only I had the guts to do that,” I thought. “I could never….”

Turns out, I have the guts to do a lot of things I didn’t think I could.

I don’t miss the hair. I don’t miss the upkeep of highlights. I don’t miss meat. I don’t miss cheese or bacon, surprisingly. I don’t miss alcohol or the fuzzy way it blots out life. I don’t miss numbing out, because alcohol can’t mute the crap without muting the wonderful.

The crap is definitely worth wading through to get to the wonderful.

Ready

To say I hate bugs would be an understatement. I’ve dealt with cane spiders (the size of my hand!), centipedes, and B52 bomber cockroaches in Hawaii, large and small spiders that crawl up the bath drain in Washington, water moccasins and fire ants in Florida and of course the beloved scorpions, mutant mosquitoes, crickets, wolf spiders and of course roaches here in Texas. Bugs are a part of life. And big ones are a part of life the closer to the equator we live.

I had bailed on our bike ride, not going near as far as we usually go, basically going as fast as I dared pushed them on their poor little legs. I sat in the tub as the tears came down my cheeks after having stripped off my workout clothes is a frenzied panic while the dogs watched, curious at my odd behavior. I looked down at my skin now covered in bites that were quickly becoming large welts as I frantically scraped my nails across my skin. Mosquitoes had swarmed me. Even in the breeze the insects clung to my skin, undeterred in their bloody mission. I really hate bugs. Like I probably have a phobia or something. I let the tears fall as I realized I was just mostly pissed off. Sometimes emotions just come up like that.

86 mosquito welts bring up the fact that I’m irritated.

I’m not in the place I want to be.

But here I am. I will continue to be here for a while longer, then I will leave, grateful for the light at the end of…

the school year

Corpus

humidity

Texas

deployment

the south

all the bugs

…the tunnel.

40 Thoughts

As of yesterday, I have survived 40 years on the planet.

I am not blah because I’m depressed about getting older. I’m just blah for no reason. My love is deployed and it sucks. We are in the last few days of summer before school starts. The kids are blah. It’s hot as hades here (110-115 degrees with the heat index!) Other than swimming or spending a load of money, there’s just not much to do. We’ve been to the library. We’ve been swimming. We are all just blah.

Usually for my birthday I do burpees. Birthday burpees to celebrate physical fitness, and the fact that I CAN do burpees. I can do 40 of them and that’s awesome, but I wasn’t feeling it this year. What I am feeling is a bit introspective. So here are my introspective/sober/blah/40 thoughts on turning 40.

  1. I like getting older. And wiser. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s for anything. I want to be the woman who has long grey tresses and rocks them!
  2. Authenticity is paramount. I’m tired of all things artificial. Hair dye, fake nails, pretending, small talk, covering up, stuffing down, fake friends, and phony niceness. I’m done with anything that is not real. It physically exhausts me.
  3. I like the clarity of sobriety. I’m doing the work and it’s good. It’s hard. So damn hard to deal with myself. Liking clarity and enjoying the process are two very different things.
  4. I LOVE that there are so many books in the world. I want to read any and everything I can get my hands on. I love to read everything – trashy fiction, poetry, autobiographies, cookbooks, self-help books, parenting how-to’s, and anything else that strikes me. Blogs, articles and news, too! The thing that bums me out is there is not enough time to read all the things!
  5. Movies are a wonderful escape. I love movies and always have. Much like books, they provide a brief respite from the monotony of everyday life. I love the way I’m transported to faraway places and events through the medium of film. And I love watching my kids’ face light up while watching a movie or busting out in spontaneous laughter.
  6. Deployments suck. They just do.
  7. My dogs have my heart. We are so undeserving of their love, but I will continue to soak up all the grace they extend me daily.
  8. Coffee is necessary. Adulting is hard. Coffee helps.
  9. Will this matter 100 years from now? An old friend used to say this and it has stuck with me. “Will this (whatever the situation was/is) be important 100 years from now?” If not, perhaps it’s not as important as I’m making it out to be. In other words, don’t sweat the little stuff.
  10. Exercise is still a passion….but…. I think I will always love movement and working out. It’s one of my tools to maintain sanity, as well as physical health, but it doesn’t hold the same spot anymore. I’ve always gone in spurts and waves, loving it, being consistent, then taking a break, then getting back at it. Overall it all evens out. I will never be a couch potato like I was before 2011, but I’m currently riding a wave until I feel as passionate about it as I have in the past. Sometimes you just need a break, and that’s okay.
  11. Meatfree is for me! I have done the vegetarian thing off and on for years, but never gave up cheese and milk. I feel so much better without dairy and meat – I was shocked at just how much better I felt (less aches in the morning, fewer allergy symptoms, less sluggish, etc.) I will likely always loathe mock foods, but have no plans of going back to omnivore land.
  12. Going against the norm is hard, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. For sanity. Courage is required. Doubts and second guessing, yes, but ultimately you know when it’s time to disengage and self-preserve.
  13. Perfectionism can suck it. Some days good enough is sufficient.
  14. Therapy isn’t a dirty word. It’s not “airing dirty laundry in public”. It is a valuable tool to get out of one’s own head and see things from a different (outside) perspective. It provides not only a necessary and safe witness to unpacking baggage and pain, but the tools to move forward in a healthier way.
  15. This. images-1.jpeg
  16. There is something about water. I have some of the most profound thoughts in the shower. The minute the tap is turned off? Yep! All gone with the water down the drain! I need to get one of those waterproof notepads for the shower…
  17. Kindness counts. Just don’t be a jerk. Not that hard. Everyone has bad days, but don’t take it out on the other cars in traffic, on the barista, or anyone else.
  18. You gotta be some kind of stupid to drink then get behind the wheel. Just don’t.
  19. Be still. Sit in the uncomfortable. Feel the stuff. Breathe.
  20. Holding grudges holds you. Being angry and mad and hanging on, replaying scenarios (real or imagined) is exactly like taking poison and waiting for the other person to fall. It keeps you bound up in the past.
  21. Be creative. Do something, write, draw, make music – whatever – but express it. Even if no one ever sees it. There is value in creating.
  22. I don’t feel like an adult. When someone calls me “ma’am”, I’m still looking over my shoulder thinking they must not be addressing me. People keep getting younger, but some how I don’t age….Ha!
  23. Overwhelm and exhaustion are signs! Listen to them.
  24. Being alone and being lonely are different. Being alone is okay. Sometimes it’s necessary. 
  25. Self care is more than taking a damn bath. Self care is so much more than a stupid pedicure or some other temporary something to do. The phrase has become cliche. Self care in action is taking time, getting enough sleep, eating well, making yourself a priority on the to do list  and not a last resort. This doesn’t not make you selfish.
  26. All the Brene Brown things. Seriously. Read her books. Truth, truth, truth.
  27. Music is a must. All the music. The guilty pleasures, the tunes that make you think, the ones that make you cry….all of it.
  28. It’s only #28? Do I have 40 thoughts?
  29. Change is the only constant. Better to embrace it than to fight it. Change will always win.
  30. Self-improvement is a worthy endeavor. Even when it’s not successful. Even when it takes try after try after try.
  31. Sing. Even if you don’t sound good. Sing anyway.
  32. This too shall pass. Kind of tied to #9. Ride the wave. The intensity will likely fade over time.
  33. Few things feel as good as clean, crisp, sheets. Life is too short for pilly, cheap sheets to sleep on.
  34. Travel. It opens minds and hearts in ways you can’t imagine until you experience it.
  35. Home is where you make it. Home doesn’t necessarily mean where you grew up. Home is where you choose.
  36. Service. Serve others in some way. Both the giver and the receiver are blessed, but the giver is more than you might think.
  37. A good mug makes the contents taste better. I don’t know why, but a good, thick happy mug makes me smile from the inside.
  38. Little things matter. If something matters to you, it matters. It’s valid.
  39. The older I get, the less I know. There is so much I am unsure of, lots of grey area. I am wary of people who are certain they have it all nailed down.
  40. Grace, Hope, and Love. Without these, we have nothing.

Fool Me Once…

Rehab stays, divorce, infidelity, cops breaking up fights between suburban mothers, and inflammatory gossip running through it all. “This is why people don’t speak with their neighbors anymore,” I’ve thought on more than one occasion, or “This crap would make a reality tv show look tame…”

Hearing neighborhood gossip, the words said behind my back pierce right through every one of my insecurities. It’s happened more than once. As a military spouse, sadly, it’s sort of expected to have those socially awkward moments, but I find that living off base this time around has brought far more immature behavior than I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

I may not always share the quality openly in real life, but I am an extremely sensitive person. In my working life, there were many times spent in tears and crushed after job performance reviews. “Needs improvement” in black and white for all the world to see felt like a hot poker searing right through my gut. It’s uncomfortable at best, and more often than not even constructive criticism sends me wanting to curl up in the fetal position sucking my thumb. I get that it’s irrational, extreme even. But the initial sting of these situations is a gut level response, involuntary. Highly sensitive people are “the ones whose feelings are so easily bruised that they’re constantly being told to ‘toughen up'”, according to Psychology today.

Being an overly sensitive person in this toxic frenemy environment is soul-sucking agony. Think J.K. Rowling’s dementors sucking the life out of Harry Potter.

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Mean people just suck ….the life right out of you. Why do we tolerate and participate in this demeaning behavior? Is loneliness too high a price that we will settle for people we’d probably not choose otherwise? I’ve wrote about real friendships many times. I still feel the same about being real and showing up authentically, but I have to say adult friendships with kids can be a real pain in the ass challenge.

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“Why would they be so mean, Mom?” she asked, tear-stained cheeks turned up to look at me. “Not every family works the same way,” I tell her feebly. “It’s life. Not everyone is nice.” What goes unsaid is just how angry I am. I want to tell her that for some reason, two can get along just fine but when three are involved, there is usually one left out. It broke my heart to watch them break hers. What I pray she takes away from these encounters is to remember what it feels like. Remember what it’s like to be mocked, ridiculed, and excluded. Remember. Then have compassion and empathy enough to never participate in making someone else feel that way.

What I feel most sad about is the fact that it took me this long to figure it out. What should have been glaringly obvious took me a while.

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It may have taken me a detour or two to get here, but I’m here now – wiser, and with eyes wide open.

via Daily Prompt: Glaring

The First Time

The first time I had a drink, I was 4 or maybe 5 years old. My older step-sisters, in high school at the time, were having a party. I don't remember much about that night, other than I felt amazing being with all those big people. I was making them laugh! They let me play their ping pong ball game with them, and even let me cheat and win! I don't remember having an opinion about what I was drinking, or even what it tasted like. I drank it though. I liked the attention. I have a vague recollection of not feeling good, but specifics are not clear. I do recall dark brown fuzzy carpet.

Dragging me by my arm, I was told to go to bed and pretend to be asleep, as people rushed around shushing each other and scrambling to pick up. Hindsight and retelling of family stories years later filled in the gaps that were confusing for me as a child. They were home, and evidently earlier than anticipated.

To this day I do not know where my parents were that night. Or the time I woke up one early morning to a sea of sleeping bags and blankets, covering so many bodies splayed out all over our rec room floor. It was a different time, the eighties. The thought process was "at least they are partying at home instead of out driving around. They are doing it safely".

I will be 40 in 10 days. I have drank alcohol up until 65 days ago. I didn't drink in my early teens, but by 18 had a boyfriend with legal friends. For over 20 years I have ….

been an alcoholic? An on and off binge drinker? Both? Does it really matter?

When I look back at my history, on paper yes. If I was reading this about someone else, it would leave no doubt. Of course she's an alcoholic. But because it's me, it's somehow normal….

It's not that bad…I didn't wake up and have a bottle of vodka for breakfast. (Although I've had Kahlua in my morning coffee on a couple of occasions with friends.) I didn't hide bottles. I never drank before work. I did strategize calorie consumption with alcohol, as in skipping meals to get tipsy quicker, skip meals to compensate for anticipated alcohol consumption. Switched from sugar- and calorie-dense cocktails to straight liquor over the years. Granted, the worst of the bottom occurred in my twenties.  I didn't drink while pregnant. After the kids were born, I drank, but responsibly. I didn't drink alone.

Until I did.

I've had horrendous hangovers, but never withdrawal symptoms.

I think that's the thing. That alcoholic term is so loaded. (Pun not really intended, but I'm leaving it there.) Alcoholics are physically addicted, right?

I don't think it matters.

I don't care what the definition is. Alcohol does not work for me. It doesn't make me feel good, it doesn't improve my life. It never feels as good as that elusive just-tipsy-but-not-drunk feeling does for that brief moment. Chasing that ever-closing window of buzzed perfection always led way past excess. When having 1 leads to 10, it's not good regardless of whatever the definition says. I love the way Jim states it at Fit Recovery, "I didn't want to drink, I wanted drunk."

Exactly.

I am done wrestling with am I or not. Doesn't really matter in the end, does it?