where are my words

It is strange how words work. I feel like when I need them most, I fail to find them. When my brain is in overdrive, they are whirring around and I cannot snatch the ones I need. Writing is my expression. A way of taming the runaway thoughts and pulling them together. My process.

The last two weeks have been a discombobulated heap. Life threw us a wonky curveball when Thor injured himself pretty significantly. We immediately jumped into auto-pilot mode. Living the motto of “Do What You Gotta Do”. Get to the appointments. Argue with the insurance company. Make the phone calls. Arrange the sitters. Fly by the seat of your pants and keep moving.

The immediacy of the needs was doable. Make the list. Check things off. Adjust as needed.

It was the bigger picture that was fuzzy. For an athlete, a guy who is everything active and competitive, this meniscus injury was terrifying. A mental game of stillness and waiting. An uncertain future. And, an insatiable need to move and challenge and compete and play that was no more.

What does it all mean? Where do we go from here?

We say thanks a thousand times over for Thor’s incredible employer and their flexibility and willingness to support us as he works through this.

We find the best damn orthopedic surgeon in the Pacific Northwest. Who specializes in sports related injuries. We drive down to Seattle at a moment’s notice and walk the halls of NBA jerseys and meet the man who repairs professional athletes.

We rely on friends and family and hear the words “We got this. You do what you need to do.” over and over.

We cry and fret. And, worry and hug. We ask questions we have no answers for.

We eat meals prepared with love and dropped in coolers on front porches.

We set our sights on “healing” instead of existing and get the surgery on the calendar.

We remember that self care too often falls by the wayside and is of critical importance right now. The very serum that makes dealing, juggling and doing possible in these moments.

We put one foot in the front of the other and keep moving. Because there is no other way to go except forward.

We shift our energies and make peace with the unknown that is the here and now.

And, I find the words. The words that spill fast and reckless like a broken bag of marbles, but bring great settling as they shift and splay on the floor.

Tomorrow is surgery.

And, so begins the healing.

old scars becoming new fears

Pepper is authentic.  Fully, unabashedly herself.  Her drum beats differently and she stomps her feet to its rhythm with gusto.  This has always been her operating state and it is mix of fear and inspiration for me to watch.

Being eight is different than being three and it seems the world is less forgiving and kind to uniqueness as we grow older.  The crazy patterned outfit of a preschooler is not greeted with the same endearing looks when you are in middle school.

But, is that just my perception?  Slighted, swayed and altered by the lens I wear from my past.

One of my favorite parenting gurus/advisors/writers talks about the history we bring to the task of parenting.  The unique role that our upbringing and life experiences contribute to how we parent.  And, how we have healed, or most importantly – not healed – from these experiences.

I was raised by great parents.  There was divorce, mixed families and step-parents.  There were struggles and demons of addiction.  But, cemented, rock solid in the middle was love.  Always love.  And, that never faltered.  The acceptance of who I was as an individual was paramount and the assumption that I was loved was a given.  My firsthand example of parenting was a true mix of love and imperfection.  Faults and forgiveness.  Patience and emotional intelligence.  It so much a part of who I am and how I parent.

My deepest darkness sits hard when it comes to social interactions and being authentic to myself.  My pre-teen years are a hazy memory of constant bullying.  Daily fear and a desperation to “belong” and overcome the cause of my strife to become something I wasn’t.  Something who wasn’t teased.  Something that wasn’t ridiculed.  Someone and not something.  I was so busy trying to change myself to the impossible mold that any thought of authenticity was completely foreign.

So, I struggle to watch Pepper’s interactions.

I see her surrounded by a handful of peers.  Her energy is big and all consuming.  Her creativity bursting.  She pounds the sidewalk chalk into colorful powders and begins to mix and dabble them together.  Soon the powders are on her arms and traveling up.  At first it is a delicate and deliberate application to her eyelids and cheeks.  But, the energy becomes unhinged and the canvas covered with a crazy array of color.  After the work is complete, the movement jumps to a higher gear.  The legs begin flailing, the arms swinging and the voice a few decibels higher.  It is a performance art that is manic and wild.  And, she is thrilled.  Her smile is magnificent.  She is a joy to watch.

It is her peers that cause me pain and concern.

Some become enraptured by the maelstrom of energy Pepper is whirling in.  They jump in and join.  The fine line of personal comfort is danced as Pepper works to cast her net wider and bring color to others.  I remind that we ask before we touch, we seek permission before we include and never assume that curiosity means interest in inclusion.

Others watch.  The behavior is like a show.  A performance.  One that is incredibly interesting, very colorful (literally and figuratively).  But, there is unhinged energy that can be unsettling in its unexpected nature.

And, many pull away.  Quietly shuffling aside and finally dropping from view completely.  The radiance was too bold.  Too bright.  Too big.

I am a bystander. On the sidelines but ready to intervene if needed. I ache as I watch the reactions of others. I see her in all her intensity and boldness and wonder.

I wonder if she sees their reactions. My guess is she doesn’t. Another hiccup that her sensory issues cause.

I wonder that if she did see their reactions, would she care? Would it diminish her joy and exuberance? Would it dampen her authenticity?

I wonder if I am reading too much into it. Am I pulling from my history and turning my self-consciousness and struggles of inadequacy into a false mirror of what I see?

Do I warn her of the possibility of “friends” causing deep hurt and pain that isn’t easily soothed? Wounds that are deep and aching. Holding your cards close protects the heart.

Or do I have faith in the process? The child with skills beyond my own. Coping mechanisms that are innate and learned, a seemingly perfect fit for her needs and issues. A hope in the goodness I have witnessed in the children who surround her.

Faith in the drumbeat that hers alone. Faith that someday it will find its band, its accompanying rhythm.

an opportunity for self care

Sometimes there is an opportunity, a decision to make, that has the potential to be life changing. A kind of reality shift that makes everything, from the minutiae of daily routines to the seasonal changes different.

Fourteen months ago, life changed drastically for us. Thor and I made the decision, in a very non-me like way, to go big. We put our house on the market and decided to move into the city.

Thor and I are true opposites in many ways. I hate change. It goes against every cell in my body and I silently, or not so quietly sometimes, rebel. Thor dreams big and aims for off-the-cuff changes that can create BIG waves. He plans, but doesn’t let the hiccups and inevitable unexpected bits stop him or discourage him. I prepare the path with incredible attention detail and exhaust myself preparing for the change.

We have a lot in the bank of our relationship. Fourteen years of marriage, twenty-plus year together and a few years ago we swung over the tipping of being together longer in our lives than we have been apart. We have ridden through incredibly difficult times, tested our limits and fought tooth and nail for the life, love and people we believe in.

Despite all this history, we had a lot stacked against us in the here and now of our decision.

The real estate market was hot but not nearly as HOT as when we bought our house ten years ago. We were also selling in a lukewarm locale with our sights set to buy in the tropics. We were upside down equity to mortgage. We were getting the house prepped to hit the market in the off-season; the dearth of the holidays when people are celebrating, being merry and hanging with family, but keeping their pocketbooks tightly closed. We had a special needs child who wanted nothing to do with any sort of change. Our savings was minute and our financial movability was sluggish.

But, we wanted a change. A big change. The kind that does all the things I mentioned. Changes life in so many ways.

So, we jumped. Two feet, hands held tight and eyes wide open. We risked. We rolled. We sweated.

And, by golly we did it.

We sold that house. We broke even with pennies to spare. We weathered the storm of Pepper as she processed this enormous change. We held and supported V’s tender heart has she said good-bye to her special places. We ached for our beloved willow tree and its majestic swooping branches. We laid to rest the memories that were woven deep of T.

We landed right where we needed to be and waited. The simple life of a one bedroom condo with only some 700 square feet to share got us one step closer to that place. That life. That goal. It shrunk our budget to manageable and allowed our savings to swell. Help flowed. Energies shifted. The hunt began.

Two weeks ago marks the one year anniversary of finding that place. The place where we are sinking our roots deep. The center of this support system that is now in our lives, on our sidewalks, in our schools and part of our friendships. The web is growing bigger and stronger.

Tonight I walked a long time with the pup. Out my doorstep, down the sidewalk and into the welcome smile of a friend. A like-minded fabulous momma who is walking this parenting road with grace and humility. And incredibly tender support.

This is a new life.

A new way of growing in my myself as a momma, a wife, a friend. A new form of self care.

Shutting the door on isolation and close-minded communities. Stepping into this place.

This beautiful opportunity that came from a risk, a massive change. Nothing is perfect and there is no ideal marker to meet, but this place, this home, this life we created, we changed and we are building feels so damn right.

perfectionism

I am a type A personality.  I am fastidiously organized and attentive to the minutest of details.  Multitasking comes easily and I enjoy pulling together of all the snapshots to create the big picture.  I can create the vehicle with many moving parts.

I see it.  I reach it.  The threshold.

I hold myself to a high standard because I feel I have the skills to do what I expect, envision and strive for.

Group projects were something I abhorred as a child.  I knew my expectations and vision would most likely not be carried out to my specifications.  The *image* was in MY head.  This meant that my only attempt at successful execution of my image was to do it myself.  And I often did.  Or at least most of it.

Instead of seeing the skills of others as a beautiful menagerie of sorts, I saw it as a burden of unattainable perfectionism.

Parenting ripped open the veil of control I had lived within for years.  It shredded it to pieces.  Most of the things I had expected and planned for was tossed aside.  The early days of newborn sleep deprivation, hormonal wackiness and nursing learning curves forced me to find footing on a shifting ground.  It began to warm my hard edges into something more malleable and alter my mindset.

I was a very capable mother and all my type A skills were put to use.

But that *image* was like a warped reflection of what I’d been envisioning.

I remember our first walk with Pepper.  She was six days old and I was healing into a more upright position after a c-section.  The weather was turning from summer to fall with a teasing coolness in the expected warmth in the sun.  We set out.  A dreamy first memory – new parents, first baby, sunny day, brand new stroller purchased just for new baby.

Our expectation was disturbed by the absolutely indisputable unhappiness of our child.  She wailed.  She screamed.  She had an instant aversion to being alone.  She absolutely hated being in the stroller.

I was flummoxed.

We listened and adjusted.  We made accommodations.  I tenderly bent over, pulled her from the empty void of the stroller and wrapped her next to my chest.  We weren’t prepared with a wrap or carrier with just my arms to hold her.  I gingerly walked for an embarrassingly short distance embracing Pepper.

She was content.  Our first walk as a family was in the books.

This was the start of  sluffing off the boundaries of control.  Walking into the ever changing unknown.

This week is our community’s annual gingerbread display.  The girls begged to enter one in this year’s “competition” after visiting and admiring all the creations last year.

So, we did. We pulled together a gingerbread house fit for our 5 month old puppy – Gibson.   Using a leftover theme and framework from a Halloween house, we had the perfect makings for “Gibson’s Dog House”.   There were graveyard bones, graham cracker dog biscuits biscuits and an arched doorway sized for a pooch.  We raided the bulk food section picking out small portions of a variety of sweet treats.  I whipped up supremely sturdy bright white Royal icing.  The decorations were sorted into muffin tins and icing filled easy to use (read: relatively not messy) ziploc bags.  I secured the house to its regulation size base and stepped aside.

I let them go.

A flurry of creativity was unleashed.  Fingers were licked.  Pretend play happened alongside imaginative expression.  The dog to whom the house is gifted mopped up sprinkles, coconut and other delights from the floor.

The house looks nothing like a dog house.  Nothing.

Not a single bone was used.

The door was covered by a zombie like creature, formerly a gingerbread ghost, decked out in peppermint bits and chocolate chip eyes numbering 3-1/2.

The words “Gibson’s Dog House” are a completely illegible combination of ghoulish frosting and randomly interspersed candies.

This is so clearly not my gingerbread creation.

And, that is okay.  More than okay.

It is fabulous.  It is what memories are made of.  It is what feeds their creative soul.

That, all of that, is more than I could have ever hoped to gain in controlling the goal of perfectionism.

Here’s to “Gibson’s Dog House” – the creative chaos of parenthood and all its unexpected opportunities.

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bravery

As the girls grow older, it becomes more clear just how much of parenting is leading by example.

Sometimes it is modeling.  Sometimes it is narratives. And sometimes it is definable actions that become rooted memories.

For a child, like Pepper, who needs to learn, practice and continually hone her skills of emotional regulation and impulse control – I provide a living, breathing concrete example of how to do this.  At my best parenting moments my example is spot on.  At my lowest, my actions and reactions show her just how long the learning process is and that I am still doing just that at 36 years old.  My apologies model relationship repair and the opportunity to take our mistakes and learn from them.

Every single thing I do is with the intense judgement of an influential audience watching, waiting, learning, modeling and growing.

The good parenting moments outweigh the rough ones.

Taking a hold of these opportunities for growth makes me a better mom, a better partner and a better friend.

The last week and a half have been hard.  So hard.  The way it is playing out on social media.  The actions that are being taken against minorities.  The divide, hostilities and downright discomfort that are forming in families and friendship.  The colors that are appearing and hardening.  The glue that is holding me transfixed to the mainstream media and loss of control as things play out.

Despite my years of practice, I feel completely ill equipped to put the feelings I have into comprehensible words.  The rawness makes it feel like physical expression is the only thing that justly honors the ache and angst.

I know my role for children.  I know the foundation we have laid.  I know the family values we uphold and the honor we have raised them with.  I know the tenets of their Montessori education and the all encompassing worldview these create.  I know the solid ground they stand on.  They will forever be kind, safe and helpful.  This I have no doubt of.

It is the fight I am being called to that I am struggling with.

I want to fuel a flame of beautiful power in my girls.  I want to support their divine feminine.  I want to help open their eyes to the realization of all they are as females and all they can be.  I want them to see the reins, feel them in their hands and plow their path.

I want to be brave.  I want to stand tall in all of that, too.  The gifts, opportunities, realizations and truths.

I avoid conflict like an infectious outbreak.  It goes against my nature in so many ways.  I see the energy and gauge whether the interactions I partake in add or drain from this energy.

Will voicing my concern fall on deaf ears?  Will my cup be the only one left empty besides a fill of angst?  What was gained, at my expense, from my expression?

And perhaps, most terrifyingly honest of all, do I have the conviction and strength to weather that?  Am I weak?

My past path is not one paved with bravery.  I often take the path of least resistance and self preservation.  If I look back, I am aware that some of my feelings of inadequacy are deeply rooted in adolescent bullying.  I am no longer 12 years old.  I am stronger.  But am I strong enough?  Brave enough?

I am being bombarded with the message to rise up.  A call to action I don’t turn away from but have yet to embrace.  To rebel with grace and respect.  To stand up for the people I believe in.  The organizations I support.  The lifestyles I care about.  The incredible diversity.  All of the things that are being threatened.

My dollars speak one language.  My words another.  Even my skin color sends a message.  My voice is loud.   But my actions are undeniably powerful.  Boldest.

I feel a deep and unexplainable need to set the example.  To live out the words we’ve practiced and committed to.  To root the memories deep.

To stand tall.  With you.

To use my voice to say it’s not okay.

To use my body as a model of who I am and what I believe.  To hold the space in the group and be one of the many sending the same message.

I want to be brave.

the choice of information

I am a firm believer and potential preacher of the notion that positive energy is as infectious as negative energy. But, I also attest to the idea that positive energy is compounding in a slower growing process than a hit of negativity. Positive energy builds and blooms. Negativity is like a guillotine. It is swift and shocking and takes time to recover from. A dark cloud that hangs menacingly if there is no conscious decision to step out and away.

I made a bold choice a few weeks ago. I decided to stop reading the news. It was a borderline rash decision that came from a moment of desperation to simplify my life.

It was cold turkey. No more local news. No more smutty news about celebrities and their melodrama. No more national news swirling with political propaganda and hate.

The television is rarely on in our house and has never been turned to news. The television news is unpredictable at best with its focus on shock value. It is overwhelmingly depressing with a string of terrifying and worrisome stories about what is going wrong in our world. We choose not to subject our family, our children, to this type of news.

But, the written news has insidious tentacles. It pulls you in and grabs your attention when there is a lull, a bit of boredom and a searching need to fill the space. It has a hook that snags.

It is informative. There is absolutely no doubt of this. It keeps us up to date on what is happening in our world. It gives us a briefing on the bits that affect our future and our current state of affairs.

When I made the choice to stop reading the news, I had a momentary panic attack. I worried I was becoming an ostrich who would be stuck with my head in the sand. A complete unawareness of what was happening out there.

A girl can dream right?

With the access to information of any type, and reliability, ready at our fingertips and a multitude of social media options, it is nearly impossible to step away completely.

Right now I am choosing to separate from the outlets that do not give me the news I want. The positive energy. The stories that restore faith in humanity. The stories that tell of kindness. That stories full of hope.

Not pipe dreams. Not rose colored glasses. Reality.

Presented without an emphasis on shock value.

Last week I fell of the wagon a bit. I was in the quiet place of no interruptions and a desire to fill the minutes with something. I opened our local newspaper’s website and was blasted with a headline. A tempting rabbit hole that I fell straight down.

A current swim instructor had been arrested for videotaping female employees at our local pool. It appeared to be an isolated incident based on the headline. But, I didn’t leave it there. I opened the article, I kept reading. I got hooked and was thrown a disconcerting curveball.

Upon his arrest, he was found to be in possession of child porn.

I took a step back in time. I went back in my memory bank and replayed a specific incident. One that left me icky and unsettled four years ago.

This man was a teacher of a Pepper’s for eight swim lessons when she was three years old. My observations told me he was a good man. No red flags. No radar blips. Nothing.

Midway through our swim session, I was pulled aside after a lesson by another mom in the locker room. Her student was in a different class. She told me that I needed to pay closer attention to my child during lessons because this man was pushing the line.

The lessons were 25 minutes long. I sat poolside and was within 20-feet of my child at all times. The entire lesson.

My initial reaction to her statement was offense at what I perceived to be her suggestion that I was not aware of something happening right.in.front.of.my.face.

I moved to being defensive of this seemingly okay man who was being potentially demonized for no obvious wrongdoing.

And, then I dug deeper. I doubted my ability as a parent to protect my child because it seemed obvious I had missed something. Otherwise she would not have mentioned anything. Right?

We finished out the session. I turned on my hawk eyes and flexed my mama bear muscles. I settled Pepper’s questioning of what she had overheard from this parent and did my best to sooth her worried queries.

I vented to Thor and spewed my thoughts in a dizzying fashion.

Four years later, I opened this news story.

And, I was socked full fist deep into my gut and spent spinning back on the merry-go-round of mixed emotions.

I have no fear that my child was unsafe during those swim lessons so long ago and am confident that no lines were crossed.

I began wondering again what signs I had missed that this other mom saw. I had doubt of my ability as a parent to protect.

I wept tears of gratitude that no more lessons were enrolled in with this same teacher.

I evaluated why I had stepped over the ledge into the rabbit hole. What had I gained from this knowledge?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing positive.

I did not need the information. The past is the past. Truly just that.

I cannot change that eight week swim session. I cannot go back in time and put on different glasses or see new information.

The only thing I received was a deep sense of vulnerability for the evil that is in this world and an opportunity to question my capabilities as a parent.

This is not worth it for me. Having the information is not worth the negative energy that swirled and erupted as a result of simply being informed.

As I move forward, I choose to spread joy and find the hope. The kindness. The good.

I choose to seek information that will allow me to grow, to learn, and to parent better. To love more fully.

That is what I can control and what I can surround myself with. And, right now, the mainstream news does not support that. One harsh lesson at time and I am moving forward.

self love

Body image has been on my mind a lot lately.  It is summer and we just wrapped up a vacation that had a single common denominator of HOT.  Temperatures of 90+ degrees and off grid camping had given us the goal of finding water as early as our day started and floating, swimming, splashing the heat away.

One of my triggers in the thought process of body image is the simple truth that the lack of clothing worn is generally a direct correlation to the rise in temperature.

The second is an honest confession of how I feel about my body.

Hanging around a pool is a good time to do some watching, thinking and considering.

I posted the following diatribe this week on social media.  It was an in the moment observation of what transpired for me in a 48 hour period.  It focused on #selflove.  And, it was a shout out to the village that is needed to raise us up, but too often kicks us down.

 

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I got a great deal of love in return.  I got some enthusiastic hollers of preach it.  And, some simple praise for speaking a truth we so often discount.

The point of my post was simple – we are all different.  Unique features of beauty.  Personal struggles with our self perceived shortcomings.  Insecurities.  Individual qualities that add to this patchwork of life and enrich our culture.  In consideration of this – we are all the same, too.  We each have a desire to change something.  Goals we are struggling to achieve.  Hurdles that keep us from strutting our stuff.

Sitting poolside while my girls played for hours gave me the opportunity to not only watch the people, but watch the individuals.

Day two was my day to become one of the many.  Put my bikini on.  Show my uneven tan lines thanks to my favorite tank top and reflect a bit of high desert sun off my white legs.  My squishy curves and round softness was not weakly hidden under a bathing suit marketed as flattering.  I was an open book.

And, my god, that is vulnerable.

I started with flip flopping nervousness and one weak attempt after another to show my “good side” or present just the right angle.

Then time got the best of me.  And heat.  And the eager beckoning of my children to join them under the waterfall.

Self love is a grandiose and truly idyllic goal.  It is one thing to preach that we all have our issues and things we are unsure of and embarrassed about, but it is entirely more vulnerable to lay them on the table and present them for others to see.  In the moment, it doesn’t matter that most people aren’t even walking by the table or glancing your way.

The world feels like your audience as you stand in the spotlight on stage.

So, I begin to wonder, can you achieve that idyllic goal of feeling authentic and honest self love while simultaneously acknowledging that you are not okay with some of the flaws that make you feel vulnerable?

I don’t know.  Perhaps it is a philosophically personal decision.  And, if it is, the idea that self love can be attainable by all feels like a ruse. A gimmick.

Can I truly love myself, for who I am in this moment with what I have, but still acknowledge fault and shortcomings?

I can love the way my breasts get fuller when I’m slightly overweight.  I can appreciate my lean fingers, smiling eyes and round Serbian cheeks.  I can find and list all the things I love.

But honesty for me means looking to the other side and seeing what can be improved.

What must change to bring me joy.

What I’m lacking that is needed for my self fulfillment.

One observation I made about my post was the lack of support from the followers and friends who are devoted to fitness extremes.  Perhaps it was a coincidence that my words and pictures didn’t cross their feeds or pop up on their timelines.

Or maybe it is that self love is unrelatable because it is akin to acquiescence and weakness.

The mantras and memes that circulate of getting off your ass, making today your day and starting your morning with a can do attitude do not seem to jive with honest acceptance for who we are in this moment.

The idea of guilt comes to mind.

Guilt is an incredibly powerful trigger and reminder to change a behavior or produce a different result.  Shameful guilt becomes an unhealthy manipulation of this powerful tool that teaches and reinforces socially acceptable behavior.

In this world where we are dogged with the idioms to be our own greatest fans, love ourselves as we are while we also reach our highest potential and strive for more, how do we find the place for self love?

Do we define self love as it best fits us personally and hold that truth to be evident for us?

I honestly don’t know.*

 

* My ramblings and complete lack of closure on the subject are a reminder of why I majored in cultural anthropology.  Making the queries, doing the research and pulling together the info are my muse.  Answering the questions is better served for others.