Sunday, October 15, 2017

The good teeth

I've never examined my own mortality as much as I did today. I adulted hard today and met with lawyers to have my last will and testament made. My husband makes comments occasionally that he realizes he probably has more days behind him than he has ahead of him, but I am usually more optimistic than that. I realize that it isn't the number of days that you have, but how you live them. A lot of things went through my mind though, realizing that one day I would not be here and someone else would be looking after my boys. Parenting is hard and not something to be taken lightly.

As I was leaving the meeting I took a mental break and looked on social media for a few minutes. A friend had posted a picture of a new looking car with fancy rims and tires. I commented with a picture of the boys in my backseat that it looked similar except mine had a few more juice spills and goldfish crackers inside. He commented back that those are badges of honor and that he would keep his car in the garage until spring to be safe. It made me think of a story...

My maternal grandmother worked all of her life making minimum wage. She saved a lot, yet always splurged on us grandchildren. She didn't spend much on herself. I remember being in my teens telling my grandmother that she should buy herself new dentures. All of us grind our teeth, and her dentures were starting to show wear and tear. She told me, "I have new dentures, they are for special occasions". I wouldn't think of buying new teeth as a "treat yo'self" moment, but that was just her way. Saving things for a rainy day. I don't know what sort of special occasion would warrant wearing the good teeth, but I feel like any mealtime should have sufficed. When she had a debilitating stroke, she owned three rental properties and had $70,000 in her savings account. All of that was saved from the salary of a minimum wage worker. She still wasn't wearing her good teeth. She never got to enjoy all the things that she was saving for a better time. 

Once I got home today from the lawyer appointment, I hopped back on social media. I made an addendum to my earlier comment. I said, "No, you can't put your car away like fine china. Now is the time to enjoy it".  Today made me feel mortal, like maybe we do have more days behind us than ahead of us, but maybe we don't. In Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, he talks about gravestones. That it doesn't say much about us. Usually just our name and two dates, the day we were born and the day we die. In between those dates there is a dash. The dash represents what we did in between. How do I want to live my dash? I've thought about it a lot and I am going to live my dash using the good china, ordering extra cheese on my burger, and if I ever end up wearing dentures, I'm wearing the good pair everyday. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

The best day ever

Carson started kindergarten a few weeks ago and I didn't know how it would go. With Liam there were so many concerns about allergies, medication, 504 plans, health care treatment, social anxiety, attendance limitations, and anxious parents. When we went to meet the teacher day for Carson, she sat down and asked if we had questions or concerns and I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say, "Take care of my boy. Don't let the world hurt him. When he stumbles on the playground and in his mind, please remind him he can dust himself off and start over." But I said, "No, I think we've got it." He is very shy to start and passive because he treats others how he wants to be treated. I treasure that sensitive part of him, but dread him being taken advantage of. It happens to all of us, the world hardens us a little bit at a time. Most of us keep just enough soft spots to be optimistic.

I ask him about recess when he gets home. He says he didn't play with anyone today, but sometimes some names leak out. Last night I was laying with him talking and he told me he had a friend named Dayton, but they broke up. I asked him what happened and he told me that Dayton was playing with a different friend today. I told him that it is okay to have more than one friend, and can even play with several at the same time. I listed off my friends so he picture having multiple friends. In my heart I was a little crestfallen that Dayton (whom I do not know yet) was playing with someone else and it may make Carson sad. I asked him if he was sad and he said, "Nope because tomorrow is going to be the best day ever." Wow, the best day ever? I asked if they were doing something special at school and he said, "No, I'm just going to have a great day." And that, my friends, is what I learned from a kindergartner. He could have been sad, but he chose joy. He wakes up with renewed optimism daily and in his mind life is a clean slate. A new day is really a brand new day. There are a lot of things going on in this world. The media and politicians would like to lead us down a path that makes us feel divided and hopeless. But I can wake up each morning and say, "Today is going to be the best day ever." And then I can strive to make it happen.

Perspective allows us to see things in a positive light or a negative light even if things are good or bad; our attitude about the situation shapes whether it is positive or negative. We can make a difference, just as my five year old did to me. When life gets you down think of the Coldplay song, Clocks: "Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?" Which will you choose? I know when I wake up in the morning and a tiny person tells me, "Today will be the best day ever," I need to follow his lead.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mom shoes

The summer before I got pregnant with Liam, a friend and I took a trip across the country to visit a friend. It was a girl's weekend and we did all of the things that girls do on girl's weekend. (William asked what girls do for a girl's weekend. He thought it meant we hang out and watch movies while eating cookie dough in our underwear.) So a girl's weekend was filled with scary movies, playing games on the Wii, talking outside in the 90 degree heat for hours, and SHOPPING!

We went to an outlet mall about an hour and a half away and shopped until we melted, which was a short time because it was so hot outside. Out of us three, only one had children. We were in a shoe store and I found the most comfortable chunky, elastic flip flops. They were not the most attractive shoes but I was sure that function outweighed beauty on the purchase. My friend agreed that they were very comfortable shoes but she couldn't buy them because they look like "mom shoes". "What the heck are mom shoes?" I asked. I knew what mom jeans were and steered clear of those, but mom shoes? That was new. "They are ugly, comfortable shoes that tell everyone that you are a mom." she said. I bought them anyway. I told her I have never heard such a thing and that she may be hypersensitive about the subject.

I wore those shoes all summer long. March 21st, 2009, I found out that I was pregnant. Until that day I didn’t believe that I would be a mom. I was ecstatic.

There are a lot of pleasant things that go along with being pregnant. You can rock any type of clothes that strikes your fancy. Form fitting tees, A line shirts and dresses, stretchy sweaters, bikinis and anything else that you can imagine. I loved not having to suck in my stomach. I never noticed how often I did that until it wasn’t necessary. It takes a while to get used to your transforming body. Mine started changing right away. Even my feet got bigger. I went from a size 6 1/2 to a size 7. I may have been getting larger but I have never felt more beautiful. I had been told that I had that pregnancy glow. I was using new makeup as well, but I considered that a pregnancy compliment.

At the end of the pregnancy my hands were like bear paws and I had cankles. My choice of footwear was flip flops at the end of November, because they fit. Function over fashion. I was actually wearing my elastic flip flops (mom shoes) and they accommodated my wide feet. That's what mom shoes are for.

After Carson we decided that we were done having children and I was ready to have my body back. My first day back at work we started a biggest loser competition. I was it to win it. A friend and I joined Weight Watchers and I followed the program faithfully and I was successful. I would say that I stepped up my workouts but that would mean that I used to work out. Weight Watchers and the Biggest Loser competition kept me honest. I took every piece of maternity clothes out of my fashion rotation and returned my pre-pregnancy clothes to their hangers. I had a bag full of clothes that needed to go to Goodwill, including the mom shoes. Some things you have to experience to understand.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dying to live

Summer break has arrived. I spent last quarter in a general Biology class, sandwiched between millenials to the generation which I belong. Whatever they are calling us forty-somethings these days. Gen X-ers? Post Boomers? I have no idea. Everyone is supposed to fit nice and neat into a box and that isn't really how life works.

Science fascinates me. Five quarters into school I am really starting to see carryover from one class to the next. Biology drew from both chemistry and psychology so I knew a little about a little. Apparently this class is a bit of a refresher to 10th grade Biology, but this ADHD girl remembers nothing about it. The words photosynthesis and osmosis rang a bell but that wasn't going to carry me through a whole quarter. Although I learned the subjects that I needed, such as cell theory, and how ATP is made, I saw parallels in other aspects of life.

One assignment was to grow a lima bean. I have do not have a green thumb, some would describe it as more of the brown variety. I don't massacre plants, but they do not thrive under my care. I spend most of my time trying to keep two little men alive so the needs of a plant fall by the wayside. The instructions were to wet a paper towel, roll the dried bean into it and keep it in a cup and regularly hydrate the towel. I was skeptical that this would work for me. I am the black death of horticulture. William even threw my bean away at first thinking that my red solo cup with a damp paper towel shoved in it was trash. Little did he know that I had a 10 point assignment curled in that wadded up towel. Since part of my grade depended on this bean I started paying careful attention to it. My kids got in on the action adding their own story line. It was quite obvious that this was a magic bean and it will grow into a very large beanstalk. But it's growth was slow. My bean had smooth cream colored skin and it was shaped a little like a heart. About seven days in, my bean split. There were roots threading every which way and a leaf tentatively peeked itself out to figure out if this paper towel was worth living for. Apparently it was, and we have since transplanted it outside with some like minded produce. I thought back to the early days when I would check on it every few hours and then one morning it was just two halves. My sweet little bean heart had broken, but a beautiful green leaf unfurled itself. I feel that I have had comparable situations in my life. I had a sweet innocent heart, life happened and my heart broke into pieces. While picking up the pieces I found pieces of me, like the beautiful green leaf poking out daringly, and the filaments of strong roots that were threading through the paper towel making itself at home. And such is life. Every time my heart has been broken and I felt that I had reached the end, my new leaf turned its face to the sun to see how we would carry on. And so we have. Every time there is a particularly tough day, it bears repeating that my track record is 100% of surviving even the worst of days. That's not too shabby.

Another lesson I took away from Biology class was about the tree trunk. What on earth would a tree trunk have to do with a life lesson. I learned that in certain tree species the center xylem cells die. This benefits the tree by giving those resources to other parts of the tree who need it more. Fungus hangs out with the tree and has a mutual agreement about the environment that they live in. Animals make their home in some tree trunks which is also mutually beneficial for the tree and the animal. The tree allows the center core to die and be hollowed out for a myriad of reasons. The reason that stuck out to me the most was that to die inside made the tree's trunk stronger. It became more flexible in the wind. It needed less nutrients to grow taller. It had animals living inside of it helping to pollinate and leaving fertilizer.

This will stick with me always. It was an eye opener, the tree had to let part of itself die to live better. Over the last few months Liam has requested that we not walk him to the bus stop. William waves from the porch on his days, but I am hesitant. I'm not 100% ready for him to start doing these things alone, but I am allowing that little bit to die inside to grow our relationship. Cleaving off a little bit at a time. I did let him know that next year I have to be at the bus stop again since Carson will be in Kindergarten. This is acceptable to him, he will allow this and to die just a little too. He has a longer leash now that he is getting older, but the world is still a tricky place and it only takes a minute...

I know that this was not exactly how this lesson was meant to be interpreted, but I do feel that I walked away with so much more than just basic material from this class. Critical thinking allowed me to see things deeper than the surface. I am finding that one day with kids is so very long, but the years are so very short. (Loosely quoted by Gretchen Rubin.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fix you

Dear Liam,

I have homework to do, but it's been a bit since I've written. Ultimately as you and Carson grow, this journal is for you to read or ignore as you wish. I have a story I would like to share. When I was a kid, I always knew something was a little off. I didn't have the vocabulary to describe my unease. I didn't have the experience to know why I felt different, it was just a gut feeling. Word to the wise, always trust your gut. I have told you a few of these stories because at times I felt so very alone. You see, I have ADHD; school was hard. Lessons are like building blocks and when you get a song stuck in your head, or your mind trails off on a thought and you realize that you just missed a foundational piece of the lesson your insides seize up. Panic sets in; sweating, heart beating fast, anxiety. I suffered from stomach aches almost daily. Hindsight being 20/20, this was the first signs of anxiety in my life. Even as a small child I was an insomniac. I remember being around 6 years old and asking my mom, "How do you fall asleep? I can't." And just like you, mornings are tough. It seems like that is when I am getting my best sleep. I have never been sorry that I am your mom, but I am sorry for some of the same burdens you will carry. Your ADHD and anxiety have become evident this year. I hemmed and hawed as to whether your dad and I would choose medication for you. You have had an angel of a teacher. There would not have been a better fit for you this year. She's been such a team player and taken all of my suggestions to heart. As this school year is drawing to a close I realized that not every teacher in our future will be as stellar. Not every teacher will want your mom's advice as to what your learning style is and where the best seat in the house would be for you. And one day, you won't want that either. I am just laying the groundwork and trying to set you up for success. To no fault of my parents, I did not have that. By 4th grade I was behind in homework, and by "behind" I mean I hadn't turned in any assignments. Mrs. Darling was her name and although I am not one to hold grudges, I hope that old bag got lice from a student yearly. Oops, was that my outside voice? Oh well. My mom even stormed into the principal's office more than once and was told, "She is tenured, we can't discipline her," I heard later on that she would usually choose 1-2 kids a year to make their lives miserable.

But I digress...You are a funny, street smart, kind boy. I am so lucky that you are mine. You still ask to snuggle and I know that won't last forever so I am relishing in it now. I think you have so much more to offer me than I could ever repay. I came alive when you were born and it was as if I saw my purpose for the first time.

I'm taking prerequisite classes so I may apply to a nursing program and help even more people. One day you will find something that makes you happy, and dad and I will be right here cheering you on. And we'll also be a safe place to land as well. But right now in addition to working, raising you both, holding down the fort, 15+ hours of school a week, I do my best and I hope that is what you remember. 

You began a new medication this week to help you focus in class, feel less frustrated and gain more confidence. One of the side effects is drowsiness. That is the understatement of the century. Tuesday was the second day on the medication and you were a little blank. I could get a laugh out of you, but I could also see the exhaustion. Yesterday you had to nap in the nurse's office for an hour in the afternoon, but you woke up refreshed and ready to finish out the day. You came home and slept until 7PM , woke up to eat, and then you were back asleep by 10 PM. Today you were more alert, you snuck a snooze while we were in the car but stayed awake until bedtime. I know it seems challenging now, but we are persevering because side effects are temporary and the reward will be great. Prior to this week you were bringing home math worksheets that were 3/4 done and we'd have to complete them at home. Just in 3 days these math worksheets are coming home 100% complete. I want to offer you all of the things that I didn't know to ask for, I want to introduce you to specialists that teach subjects that you are excited about, I want you to blow any self doubt out of the water because you are so smart and capable. Just realize that everything I do is out of love for you. To me - you and Carson are my happily every after. I'll walk across the Earth for you (although I really hope that you'd never ask that of me).

Fix You by Coldplay

High up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
If you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Until the sun burns out, I am here for you; I'll always be your home base. You are not alone. Whatever you feel, I can almost guarantee that I can relate.  Lights will guide you home...and I will try to fix you. Always.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The day I showed up

When I was growing up my self esteem was rock bottom. I'm not saying I am extremely confident now, but I am definitely better than I was. Adolescence is awkward, and painful, and terrible in so many ways. I was raised to be humble, I break the ice with self deprecating humor. If I could point out my flaws before you noticed them there would be nothing to judge. It's hard to put someone down when they beat you to the punch. In middle school ADD got the best of me. I struggled in school and made passing grades by default. I felt lost all of the time scholastically and felt like I was floating with no real direction. I feel as though I fell through the academic cracks. I was too embarrassed to ask for help. To make up for it I focused on my looks and tried to be as attractive as possible. I was in pre-algebra in 7th grade and I remember getting to the part of the class where we studied exponents and powers of 10. I could not understand the concept and I really couldn't understand how this was applicable in real life. I asked a question in class and my chauvinistic teacher alluded to my lack of understanding stemming from being preoccupied with my social life. That was the last time I asked a question for fear of feeling stupid and drawing attention to myself. One time a classmate who was very smart heard me talking about my love of reading and she said, "You like to read? That is surprising." and I knew that I did not come across as a genius. Another time in junior high, I was getting dressed in the locker room and a girl I didn't know well walked up and splashed the contents of a glass of water on me. She said, "That's acid because I don't like the way you look." Later on in the year we had the opportunity to talk and she said she did it because a boy that she liked had expressed interest in me. I know what it is to feel inadequate and unlovable.

Today was the second week of my math class, it's a hybrid class so part is performed online and 3 hours are in the classroom. This is my first class that I am taking on campus. I was nervous about starting last week, but I was pleasantly surprised that my studying beforehand paid off. I was learning exponents and powers of 10 and there was the nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me that it's too hard and I'm not smart enough to understand it. I punched that voice in the face and reminded myself that I could let go of these negative voices in my head and choose my own destiny. Nobody is born with the knowledge of exponents. With hard work, guidance, and practice anyone can improve on skills. My teacher played us a video last week on Youtube by Trevor Ragan called Teaching a growth mindset, which you can watch here if you would like to be inspired and have a spare 20 minutes. I guarantee it will not be 20 minutes (19 minutes and 33 seconds to be exact) wasted.

The thing I took away from this video was that Trevor said, "There is decades of research that shows that the key to getting good at learning is first believing that you can do it." How can that be such a simple, yet hard to digest concept? All this time I have just told myself different versions of, "You're not good at it so don't bother." This teacher showing me this video during class time told me she was looking me in the eye and saying, "Stop playing those negative tapes in the back of your mind. The only way you will understand this is to believe that you can. So believe it, because I do."

It's time to let my light shine. I don't have to be a shrinking violet, or be ashamed of being smart. It doesn't make me less cool, and as an adult, who is really the judge of that anyway?
Today was my second class. I sit in the front because my eyesight is not stellar and neither is my attention span. Nobody else really likes the front. A new guy came in right before class and I hear him ask the teacher if he can add this math class even though he missed a week. She was agreeable and he sat across from me. I had heard him tell the instructor that this is his second attempt at this class but he had heard positive things about her. We started class and were working on similar problems to what was in our homework as a class for better understanding. I saw him staring at his paper, looking at my text of the lessons, and then back to his paper. He asked where I had printed the lessons from and I told him and showed him on his laptop. I then did something outside of my comfort zone. I showed up. I let go of my fear of looking like a know-it all brown noser and asked him if he understood what we were working on. He said he didn't really know how to work through it, and I had a flash of my boys in my brain and thought about who I would want to show up if they were struggling. I turned my paper around and showed him how I did it, and then I did the next problem with him, and the next until he got it. On our break I learned that he had failed this class previously and what his goals are. He said, "If I pass this class," and I cut him off. I said, "You will pass this class, no white flags. Pinky swear that we'll help each other and use the tutoring center and set ourselves up for success." He pinky swore and I saw his confidence grow a bit. Today I was the person I want my boys to meet. I was the change I want to see in the world. My future goals are both to complete school and teach my boys that ladies can be smart. I was the Hermoine Granger in my own story.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” –The Goblet of Fire