Did My Brain Fall Out?

Haven't we all asked ourselves this question? There are days I am quite sure my brain did fall out - I can barely put one foot in front of the other and I forget everything. I know you can relate!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Confessions of a Crowded Mind: Purge

Have you ever sat down and thought, "damn this past year really________". If you're like me I often focus on the negatives because it's the negatives that really stick with you. It's an 80's cassette mix tape loop of "WTF. How did this go so wrong?!"

In my new "evolved" state (don't giggle) I'm really really really really trying to focus on the positives and let the negatives roll off my back. Impossible? Some days, hell yes. My amazing therapist *Marla asks me this question at every session "What does this <event> make you believe about yourself?" and darn, that's hard to answer. Try that one on for size.

*Marla is really helping me sort through the old school fake denim luggage set I drag around. My goal is to eventually just have a carry-on sized bag, and one of those efficient ones I'm always jealous of at the airport...compact, compartments, trendy and with wheels for easy escapes. I'm exhausted from dragging around my fear, guilt and self-loathing. So how will I fit all of this into my carry-on? I have no earthly idea, but I am sure going to try.

STEP ONE: Let the purging begin. I am prepared to purge three very weighty items today. It's certainly not all of it, but I think they're the biggest ones.

*I left my marriage of 24 years to a man I love dearly (yes, not past tense). I don't regret one day I spent with him. I couldn't have ever dreamed of a man who loves our kids as much as he does. I couldn't have asked for a man who was more apt at loving me out of my crazy. Out of respect for him and my kids I will not go into particulars, but sometimes the hardest and healthiest thing is to walk away. I've been horribly lonely, bone-weary sad, dated quite a few losers, a prince (another blog post on that cluster someday) and felt guilt and shame. But in all that chaos I have also had incredible moments of happiness, peace and validation. I have had to force myself to ask for help and then, tada, let others help me.

Wikipedia Images
*My mom died - most likely because of my stubbornness and
laissez-faire attitude toward her ailments - but hey I live with that anvil of guilt every single day. I could have been a better daughter; I could have cared for her affairs and feelings with more patience and kindness. She was incredibly loved and taken way too soon from me and her girls. I can't go back and change things, but I can look forward to the future she envisioned for me. All she ever wanted was for me to be happy. I'm working on that, Mom.

*Years ago we had an encounter with bed bugs, a mild infestation by exterminator standards. Yes, everyone shudder. It's been 4 years this month and I am still acutely and horribly scarred by that experience. It was expensive.  I avoided people and places for a long time for fear I was a walking bed bug pez dispenser. I became a recluse - work and home, that was it.  Most people can treat and move on. This CHANGED me so profoundly that it has become a part of my EVERY DAY LIFE! Imagine, a bug being able to get into your psyche like that? Yes, it's insane. I often think I am insane. For the past four years I have spent thousands of hours searching with reading glasses, a flashlight and magnifying glass in hand. I have spent hours asking my kids and friends intimate questions about their skin. So many wasted hours resulting in some ruined relationships. I basically owe everyone I know an apology for this phobia and my obsession. I also apologize if I surreptitiously checked your house for them too 😉. Some days I do o.k., but other's one red bump on my skin can push me over the edge. I've cried an infinite amount of tears. This is eating me up and I can't go on like this anymore. I've been in intense therapy and we're making progress. I have some unresolved issues from my life that have created this hyper-vigilance and it has manifested itself in this phobia. Funny, not funny, how the mind works.

Through all this my biggest struggle has been accepting myself and understanding that even with all the negative things about myself that I can rattle right off the top of my head, that I am essentially GOOD. A worthy person. A funny person. A loving person.  But that mix-tape creeps back in and asks me questions..."if you were a good person, you wouldn't have gotten bed bugs, left your marriage, been lazy financially, emotionally and physically. You would have payed more attention to your mother. You wouldn't suffer from crippling depression and anxiety. You would get up off the couch. You would write more, complain less, volunteer, craft a program for CLM1, ask CLM2 to see you more, be calm and live in the moment. You wouldn't need validation because that validation comes from inside." But yet, here I am constantly seeking validation in the weirdest ways.

So, my carry-on bag can only contain self-validation, a feeling of worthiness and the belief that I am lovable, in-spite of bugs, guilt and fear. That's STEP TWO!

What's your carry-on packed with?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

For My Beautiful Mom

My mom loved pictures. She was known to run to 60 minute photo the morning after a wedding, a shower, or any event to get her pictures developed. She never really got on board with digital photos, much preferring the tangible pictures. Toward the end of her life, she craved pictures - the walls of her room were covered with them. Flipping through pictures of family and friends on “FacePage” wasn’t enough for her. Me, being of the digital age, couldn’t understand this obsession, but as I looked through all of the family photos, I realized something. My mother knew pictures told a story, and these snapshots, tangible or those engraved in our minds, is how she is leaving all of us evidence of her love. “We keep this love in a photograph. We make these memories for ourselves, where our eyes are never closing, hearts are never broken, time’s forever frozen still. We won’t ever be alone”. The story of my mom’s life and her love for all of us is present in every picture, every memory, frozen in time, a bittersweet reminder of our moments with her. My mom’s love was fierce and loyal and gentle and generous and thoughtful. These are her gifts to us.

My mother had a fierce kind of love. I saw this watching her with her brother Joe and sisters Patti and Joann. I saw this as they all cared for Nana and Poppy. This was evident in her concern for her grandson and granddaughters. Courtney and Cearra were always on her mind. She loved them fiercely and unconditionally. Nothing made her happier than spending time with her girls. She was keenly interested in what they were doing and was more than happy to share her opinion on their decisions.  In fact, mom had very set ideas of what we should ALL be doing with our lives. However, regardless if she agreed with our decisions or not, she would unfailingly support them even if she thought they were “dopey”. Everything my mother did, she did with purpose and force.

My mother had a loyal kind of love. Family always came first and she believed that you “Show Up!”. It didn’t matter how significant or insignificant the event, you couldn’t keep her away. She was a presence, a force of nature. Other than family, nothing expressed her loyalty more than her friendships. My mother never met a stranger and she would quickly envelop her friends into her family. In fact, there was no line between friend and family. To my mother, they were the one and the same. My mother knew how blessed she was to be surrounded by such an amazing group of friends and she spent her life making sure that they knew how thankful she was for them. She was more than just a mother and a grandmother, aunt or sister. She was a true friend.

My mother had a gentle, sensitive kind of love. Hugs, kisses, backrubs, smoothing my hair back from my forehead. Her love was communicated through touch. I can remember how as a child she took such gentle care of me when I was sick or skinned my knee or fought with a friend. I saw this gentleness when she cared for her granddaughters, how she would scoop them up when they would cry, rub their backs and sing to them. If you hurt, she hurt too. I can remember teasing her my whole life because she was always so quick to cry. Sometimes she wouldn’t make it past “hello” on the phone before the tears started.  She cried when she was happy and she cried when she was sad. Her love was communicated through her tears and her smile and laugh. Her gentle nature was also illustrated by her love of animals. She may have forgotten someone’s name, but she always remembered the names of your pets.  

My mother had a generous and thoughtful kind of love. She rarely thought of herself first. You all were always on her mind. Buying little tokens from the dollar store. Sending a card in the mail. Remembering important events even though she was so far away. All of these acts of kindness and generosity were her way of loving us. She was incredibly giving with her time as well. She would often drive the little old ladies from St. Hugh’s around to run their errands. She was compelled to give whatever she could. When I would visit her, I would bring her her favorite kind of cookie or candy.  When I would come back to visit a few days later she would have none left. I would ask,  “Mom, where’s all the candy I brought you?” and she would answer “Oh everyone who came in my room, I gave them some.” My mother was the most thoughtful person I have ever met and her compassion was not reserved just for her friends and family. She instilled in me generosity, consideration and compassion for anyone in need, and I am so proud to have learned that from her.  

In each picture, time is frozen, our hearts are never broken, our eyes are never closing. In each picture we have a memory of my mother, her life and her love for all of us. When you look at pictures of my mother, when you think of her, please remember that these were her gifts to us.  Know she is always with you.
I love you, mom.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Miracle League: If we all followed these principles the world would be a beautiful place to live

CLM1 joined Miracle League baseball this season. Miracle League is a baseball organization for disabled people with a specially designed rubber playing field.  I had never heard of it before, but a friend of ours mentioned that her daughter has played every year, so I signed up CLM1. I've been away for the past two weekends so I didn't get to see her play. After her first game, my husband called me all excited - he had never seen anything like it! Today was my day to take her and as I watched all these kids and families congregate on the rubber baseball field it occurred to me: 

1. Everyone gets a buddy: buddies sit in the dug-out with you, run the bases with you, stand at bat with you and make you feel special. We all need a buddy.

2. Three strikes doesn't mean you're out. You swing until you hit the ball. Wouldn't we all love as many chances as it takes to get something right?

3. You can steal all the bases, even home if you feel like it, and everyone will cheer you on! How many times has life stopped us short? Steal the bases sometimes, people.

4. You choose what bat you use - skinny metal, wood, fat plastic. As we go through life we realize that we have few choices, so don't always choose what the "norm" dictates. Choose that red, fat plastic bat sometimes.

5. Opposing teams cheer for each other. Wow! Do you hear that Congress? We're all on the same team and beautiful things happen when we cheer for each other.

6. Rubber fields beat grass any day. Even if you fall, you're OK! No stains on the uniforms - you just get up and keep playing!

7. Everyone gets a home run. We all need to feel successful.

8. Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and Pharrell's "Happy" accompanies each inning! Who could ask for better theme songs?

9. If your favorite song comes on, you can stop playing and dance in the middle of the field if you want to. And you know, sometimes, we just need to stop what we're doing, get happy and dance like no one's watching.

10. There's no score and everyone is safe. This one speaks for itself.

For more information on Miracle League click here:  http://www.miracleleague.com/history.html

For information on our local Miracle League click here: http://miracleleaguewilm.org/

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Caring For My Mom is Like Raising My Teens

We all have our own rows to hoe: single parent, married parent, step parent, sibling, child, friend, neighbor, family activity director, chaperone, chauffeur, in-house heart mender, soul tender, financial advisor, banker, lender and collection agency. For a lot of people I know, we are all of these things, or a mish-mosh of these things, like the old school Chinese menu, two from column A, two from column B, egg roll. Ready in 10 minute.

My new build-the-airplane-as-I-fly role is as caretaker for my mom. Every day I am amazed at how much I don’t know – and trust me, this whole experience has been a lesson in humility, humbleness and the occasional face-plant-grovel. I am the first to admit that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING! I have also started to see the similarities between raising teens and caring for my mom.

They always ask for money: When I was growing up my grandfather lived with us, and he was always concerned with having cash in his wallet. When I became a teen my mom was my main source of cash for my wallet. My kids ask ME for money all the time. Now, every time I visit mom she asks me for money. For a while she would venture out to Walmart or go to lunch with the group at her assisted living facility, but when she stopped doing those things she still asked me for money. “Ma, what do you need more money for?” to which she would respond, “Why can’t you just give me money?”, then she would turn to whomever else was in the room and tell them that I am cheap. Turns out she was giving her friends money to get her Aspercreme, Immodium and Tums from Walmart. We all howled when she got caught “doing the deal” in the hallway. She said there are rats everywhere.

Where shall they live?: This one hits close to home…literally. After over 40 years of my mom living in the same house, I had no choice but to sell when she got too sick to live at home alone. Living 700 miles from me, the choices were few, so I moved her closer to me and sold her house. As a parent of a teen with autism, where shall she live is talked about often…I mean not where shall she live right now, but what about the future? Also, my sophomore’s days at home are limited – college is around the corner – so where shall she live? How will I ever find places that will keep them all safe, happy, healthy, and cared for like they deserve? How will I ever get all their STUFF to fit in one room. {Shoves more boxes in the closet and slams the door}.

They always need to go somewhere: I am ALWAYS in the car. ALWAYS. Driving all over kingdom come; band practice, church, doctors, errands, visiting. Mom asks the least and requires very little chauffeuring, however the kids are always whining…go here…go there…get me this...take me…can we...Coordinating who needs to go where (not even including my own schedule!) is exhausting and can leave me lying awake at night figuring out how I can be two places at the same time. Calgon. Sometimes I wish someone would steal my car (but bring it back about 48 hours later) just so I can get a break.

They fib and forget: For a while in my family we've had a running joke that my mom’s Intel is about as reliable as a supermarket tabloid. What makes it so funny is that it’s true. With dementia scratching at her door, her inaccuracies are probably not something to laugh about, but some of them are such doozies that the belly laughs cannot be contained. I will say this, she lied about her health way before she had dementia, usually to her doctors (I guess she wanted to impress them?). She was her own one-woman tabloid way before she had dementia so I guess it’s ok to laugh. And hey, my teens? They lie about stuff and flub information all the time, little half-truths and embellishments depending on how severe the punishment or awesome the reward will be. Mom genuinely forgets things which (ehem) may be the case when my kids “forget” to scoop the kitty litter or empty the dishwasher.

I love my mom. I love my kids. I love this rattletrap plane that I’m building with spit, duct tape, tears and laundry detergent. It would be nice to have someone else take over the navigating though.

Moms. Sheesh.
Teens. Sheesh.
Daughters. Sheesh.

The circle of life…sure has a wicked sense of humor.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Moving (On) Is Hard To Do

A hundred years ago (really it was 2008) there was this pregnant chick who showed up on the first day of work for the new school year. She came from the "tough" school, where all the "bad" kids go. In the flurry of the first days of school I saw very little of her.

I can remember the day we spoke for the first time - she was walking down the hall, I'm pretty sure towards the bathroom with her pregnant bladder, and I was headed to my room. A simple, "Hey, how's it going (omg, what's her name, what's her name again?)?" turned into a friendship that I will cherish forever.

I cannot begin to tell you everything we have been through, the good, the bad and the ugly. The really good, the really bad, the super ugly, AND THE SIDE-SPLITTING, SNORTING, CRYING LAUGHTER. You see, Rebecca thought I was funny and I thought she was funnier, and that is the glue that has held our little dysfunctional friendship together. That and I'm pretty sure we love each other ♥

Rebecca is that friend that everyone should be lucky enough to have. 

She is that friend: 

Who I never have to clean my house for...
Who I can count on to laugh at me for my neurotic perseveration on stupid shit....
Who I can unload a string of curses in front of and not only does she not blink an eye, she joins right in.... 
Who I can count on to never befriend my enemies, frenemies or anyone else that I just don't like....
Who can tell me the truth about my outfits, hairstyles, behavior and parenting skills...
Who I can talk to about how frequently (or infrequently) I poop...
Who weathered the worst boss ever created with me...
Who is my go-to prom/school event date...
Who people confuse me for (although we've never really figured out how that happens)...
Who made me laugh about the ridiculous, heinous and off the wall crazy shit said boss pulled on both of us...
Who is my DKG sister...
Who I can work into a froth when my neuroses-cup overfloweth...
Who can make a lesson plan in less than 5 minutes...
Who calls me by my last name and I hers...
Who taught me the best one-liners for classroom management...
Who fed my family when my mom got really sick...
Who likes my kids as much as I like hers (which is A LOT)...
Who "gets" Courtney so I never feel anxious about what Courtney might say around her...
Who shares stupid videos with me...
Who sticks around at the end of the day to repeatedly watch said stupid videos with me..over and over and over again....{snorts galore}
Who was my first floor neighbor...
Who shared a room with me and made me laugh every single day....
Who made our ghetto names...Suzz-a-naay and Reb-aahh-kahhh...
Who will forever be the liberal to my conservative, the crunchy granola to my processed foods...
Who has seen me at my worst...
Who celebrated me no matter what...
Who will dry my tears when everything is going wrong...
Who will laugh at my tears when I THINK everything is going wrong...
Who is honest and trustworthy and kind even if she's a little tough on the outside...
Who doesn't mind that I'm a hugger...
Who, even though I don't see her every day, is still with me no matter what...
Who is a straight shooter....
Who never thinks that I have too many animals because hers usually outnumber mine...
Who loves Napoleon Dynamite...
Who sews like nobody's business...
Who loves Key and Peele as much as I do...

So, as she heads off into the sunset, kids and animals in tow, I am happy for her. But I am a little sad for myself, because my life, my heart, my classroom and my halls will never, ever, be quite the same. 

I love you Flynn! 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stop Lying to Yourself

I am watching Dear John and crying, not because of the love story, but because the dad very obviously has Asperger's. I've been thinking a lot lately about C1 and her future because we seem to be at a standstill as far as what her next step will be. There are no programs in our area for high functioning autistic adults; she will be 20 years old in August, and I don't have the funds to build our own version of a program that would offer her transportation, employment, college and support. So, for now, until I can come up with SOMETHING, she sits at home while the rest of us are at work and school. Sits. And. Sits.

I've also been tortured lately, scared about what will happen to her when my husband and I, inevitably but God willing not for a hundred years, leave this Earth.

So to those of you out there who don't wish for a "cure" because you love your child, or yourself, just the way you are? I think you're lying because who in their right mind wouldn't want life to be easier to navigate than this crap shoot? Who in their right mind wouldn't want to be assured that your child will be able to take care of themselves if something happens to you? Who in their right mind wouldn't want to wake up and the word autism be missing from their vocabulary?

I love my child, purple, striped, autistic or not, and I certainly don't want to "CHANGE" her, but DAMMIT I want this to be EASIER FOR HER. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fat Clothes Are Contagious: Who’s Afraid of the Chubby Chicks?

Fat clothes must be contagious or so those idiots who design the stores’ layouts obviously think. 

As I tried my hardest to find a classic dress shirt for an interview recently, I was faced with the realization that every store I entered obviously feels embarrassed that they carry women’s or plus sized clothing, I mean why else would they hide their plus size sections? It’s as if each store has this desire to be an exclusive boutique where nothing is larger than a size 4 and nothing is cheaper than $89.50. No wait, $89.64, .50 is just too ordinary. This is not to say that there aren't boutiques out there that sell items my plus sized butt can fit into, however, the majority of the time shopping, no matter where, is a serious disappointment for anyone above a size 12.

(If anyone comments on this post about how I should just lose weight, I will make a voodoo doll in your likeness and force-feed it Oreos and lard until you cannot fit out your front door. Save it for someone who cares what you think! This is MY blog, so I run the show). 

As a disclaimer,  I have been every size between a 9 and a 22 over the years, so I am credible in this area. Shopping as a 9 or 12 is way easier than shopping as an 18 or 22. Why? Well, one, there is a larger variety of styles and both larger selections and sections for the “regular” sizes. Go into any store and you’ll notice how LARGE the clothing sections are. Shopping as a larger woman is hard enough but when you shrink our sections AND selections by some stupid formula where you divide our "area" by our weight and then subtract the yearly cost of Weight Watchers, I call bullshit.  Then, you take that section and cram it somewhere so it’s out of the way, hidden from sight as to not offend anyone. Who the hell do you think will be offended? The skinny bitches?! WE DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM. 

According to WebMd, “today, the average American woman is 5'4″, has a waist size of 34-35 inches and weighs between 140-150lbs, with a dress size of 12-14. Fifty years ago, the average woman was 5'3-4″ with a waist size of approximately 24-25″, she weighed about 120lbs and wore a size 8.” A size 14 is not included in the plus sized category, however the size and selection for the “bigger” girl shouldn't be diametrically opposite of the 6s and 8s. Begin to pay attention to the plus size sections, where they are, how many racks there are. Then begin to pay attention to the same for “regular” clothes.

So, I visited at least 11 stores looking for a dress shirt. (I reserve another post at a later date to discuss why I couldn't find a classic, crisp dress shirt for less than $50). Some of these stores were SO incredibly biased in where they “hid” their fluffy girl clothes I had no choice but to write this.

TJ Maxx tried but the two racks that only included shirts and pants (there were NO plus size dresses anywhere in the store) are a poor comparison to the at least 40 racks of “regular” sizes.

Target is the worst offender in the hurt feelings department. They have just tucked their plus sizes right there with the maternity clothes. We get three racks tops and, whoops that dress you think is pretty? Yeah, that’s for an expectant mom. Plus...oops one step to the left and you're in maternity.Target’s plus size section is like straddling a state line; plus, maternity, plus, maternity. Honestly, I never shop there. They hurt my feelings years ago with their obvious hatred of the fluffy.

Belk’s is a new one I will boycott. Now, being from the north, I had never heard of Belk’s until I moved south, but it turns out to be a close sister of Macy’s (just to give my friends up north a reference point – oh and Macy’s hides the full-figured department in their basement). When you walk into Belk's an entire half of the first floor is both men’s and women’s clothing, and that it is huge - racks upon racks upon rack as far as the eye can see. The kids and I wandered around for a while, looking for ANYTHING in my size. Finally, C2 says, “Mom, I think your clothes are upstairs.” Wait, what? No C2, that can’t be…ALL OF THE CLOTHES ARE DOWN HERE. I hate to admit it but C2 was right; there they were tucked in behind formal dresses and next to the underwear. 

Steinmart (think Lord and Taylor, New York friends) had one of the largest selections with the most rack space, however they placed their chubby sizes in the middle of the store, surrounded by all the regular and petites, kind of like a bunch of bullies surrounding the fat kid at recess. Another woman shopping motioned with a sweeping arm gesture to the rest of the store and declared, “Look at all that! Why can’t they make cute stuff like that for us? Would it kill them to use a little more fabric?!” See? I am not alone.

JC Penny, we’ll just call it the Sneeze-and-You-Miss-It Department. 

Dillard’s, upstairs, back corner. ‘Nuff said. At least we have our own dressing room – I mean who wants to witness all THAT?

Kohl’s, oh how I used to love thee. I have stopped shopping there because they have become very price prohibitive. That and our section bleeds into the children’s department. Kohl's selections are much larger than most, so I have to give them two stars for that.

Sears was the only one who tried to represent my full-figured sisters with equality by placing our section in with the “regular” clothes, although we were still outliers and fall dangerously close to the shoe department, which last I checked only carries shoe sizes up to 16. 

Cato's  is where it's at! We have a WHOLE HALF of the ENTIRE STORE! It's equality (I measured!). We can even use the same dressing rooms! 

So, what’s with all this hiding? The big and tall men sections are NEVER placed in a separate part of the store! They are mixed in with the other men’s clothing. So, why are just women's plus sized clothing being sequestered? It's ok for men to be big and tall and fluffy and fat and chubby and big boned, however society dictates a different set of rules for ladies. Stores that discriminate and segregate are feeding this hatred for the big,tall, fluffy, fat, chubby, big boned woman and I AM SICK OF IT! 

If 14 is average now, the fluffy are going to be taking over very, very soon, so for the love of God, treat us better!  I SAY, {shakes fist in air} IF OUR CLOTHES ARE BIGGER, THEN WE DESERVE MORE SPACE!