A few weeks ago, I had a suspicious spot burnt off my chest. Although, I guess if I’m going to be accurate I had it numbed, shot with something to make it protrude off my chest, cut out and then they burnt my gaping wound with something that made the room smell like really bad BBQ. If you ask my husband he will tell you it is smaller in diameter than a dime and very shallow. If you ask me, I will tell you the spot has the density of a dying sun. They called me a week later with my results. It turns out I have a serious case of hypochondria and they told me to stop looking at WebMD. It was nothing. Which is good news as in truth, I am not a hypochondriac. But I’ve had this wound on my darn chest for over a month now. I’ve recovered from C-Sections faster than this darn spot on my chest. I do what I normally do and I call my mom to talk about how it got particularly disgusting this past Easter weekend. Mom didn’t answer the phone. So I proceed to text her a fairly long diatribe on the disgustingness that is my gaping wound along with a picture. Aaron RogersI realize texting my mother is the equivalent of throwing a Hail Mary. I just helped her buy an iPhone this past Thanksgiving. I should have just bought another 1995 flip phone. She doesn’t text. But I wanted to talk to my mom and I was hoping for a little “Miracle in Motown” action where Aaron Rodgers evaded three Lions pass rushers for 8 seconds before throwing a 61-yard pass to the four Packers receivers and tight end Richard Rodgers waiting in the end zone. Surprisingly, my Hail Mary was successful. Sort of. About 30 minutes after I sent her my text I got a one liner back, “That’s gross.” Those two words should have been all I needed to realize it wasn’t my mom I just texted. In all my 39 years, I have yet to see something that truly grossed my mother out. She has iron constitution of hardened war medics. She also would have just picked up the phone and called me back. So I think my silly mom is trying, and failing, to be funny via text messaging and I continue to text her further disgusting information regarding my obvious and impending disfigurement. wifiThis is what I got back, “I regret to inform you that this is most decidedly not your ‘Momma.’ However, in light of the situation I wish you the best of luck in your continued endeavors to find your ‘Momma’ before you expire from acute exacerbation of chronic nonsense.” Touché, Not My Momma. Touché. Right at this moment I am wishing a lifetime of videos with incorrectly synched audio on the person that has my mothers old cell phone number.
The moments in my life where I have been able to stretch myself, change imbedded behaviors, develop a larger world view, encompass and incorporate positive difference in my life have all come from epic life failures on my part. Some of my biggest failures allowed me to rise up out of the ashes like a phoenix and grow into a person that was a little bit better, a little more wise, a little more kind each time. Your burdens are you blessings. Makes sense. Why would I change something that I was doing right in my life? Why would anyone? Change is hard and I would argue that without serious motivation most people just aren’t going to change. Why fix it if it ain’t broken? Which is why a particular TED talk I watched last week has rattled around in my brain and continued to bother me. The talk is only 9 minutes long an it’s worth a look. He talks about how our internet, our Facebook, our google searches are now tailored to our own personal tastes. The Ted talk was by Eli Pariser. Beware Online “filter bubbles” www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles I had a friend bring up this topic over a year ago and I flippantly responded that this entire concept was perfect. Why wouldn’t I want them showing me more of what I liked and wanted? I believe at the time, my friends concern was along the lines of these huge databases and the government knowing everything about us. Forget big brother, we are shoving our information in their face. we areI’m such a loud mouth, it’s hard for me to really gather up much concern about people knowing information about me. As long as it’s not my bank account information, I’ll pretty much tell you anything you want to know. Plus, I’ll throw in a lot of information you don’t want to know. I could talk about my family digestive habits for days on end if I could find someone willing to participate in that discussion with me. The problem is that the problem is bigger than that. A lot bigger. Eli Pariser argues that in the beginning the internet blew open wide the control and the specific information fed to us by the editors of the newspapers and television networks. So we think of the internet as connecting us all together. Having all the information at a click of a button. Maybe that was true in the beginning. It’s not true now. We no longer have a human editor with ethical standards. We have computer algorithms that just give us more and more of what we continue to click on. Eli Pariser states that we are now isolated in a web of one. The people that read about terrorist attacks all day will continue to live in a newsfeed filled with mainly terrorist attacks. If you search vacation information all time, google will even filter out the big news feeds regarding terrorist attacks and give you vacation information. If you are constantly clicking on feeds regarding the bigotry in the world, your news will begin to only give you articles showing you how miserable the world is. The TED talk gives an example of how our google searches are even tailored toward our tastes. If my husband clicks on a topic, his first page of suggestions usually revolve around any political information surrounding that topic. My same search will pull up social and emotional and fluff articles about the same topic. differentlyNo one is getting balance. No one is getting the big picture. We will continue to sink into our prejudices, our bigotry, our self righteousness and our isolation. I’m talking about everyone. All cultures, all ethnicities. Our Web of One is stunting our growth and making us miserable people. Other people will be the bad people and we will be the good people. My view is correct and theirs is wrong. They are out to get me and I must be extreme in return. I am right. Look at all this information that validates how right I am each and every day. I don’t need to change. I am right. You are wrong. The people that seek out the articles about the devastation and destruction we inflict upon each other will continue to see and believe that is the totality of our world. The people that only want light and fluff and happy articles will continue to have an unrealistic view of the world and will never see the topics that they need to take a stand for. Decisions are being made out of ignorance, fear, hate and the worst thing about it is that we believe we are informed. We believe we are seeing the world. But you are locked in a room that only shows you mirrors. An endless vision of what you already know and want to see. uncomfortableI don’t know anyone that amazing that they don’t need to grow and stay informed. When you can change your thoughts, you can transform your life. If we want to grow as individuals and as a society the news needs to make us uncomfortable. The information we seek out needs to challenge us and show us other points of view. We need the big picture to make informed choices. We need to be able to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and become who we were meant to become. Not sad repetitions of who we have always been. It’s time to pop the bubble.
When I was in Kindergarten Mrs. Forsage sat us all down on the carpet and asked us what our favorite color was. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce on that brightly colored indoor/outdoor carpet with my hand raised as high in the air as it could go. My one hip was raised so I could raise my hand even higher while still obeying the rules and sitting on the carpet. My favorite color was purple and I couldn’t wait to see awe in Mrs. Forsage’s gentle brown eyes because my color was just so wonderful and I was so smart for picking it. But she didn’t call on me first. She called on Bobbi Lee. Bobbi Lee would later become a deeply loved friend. A friend that I consider an actual sister. But on that day, I did not know Bobbi Lee and that meanie head picked my color. My hip sank to the floor and my hand slowly lowered to my lap. As Mrs. Forsage did indeed spend time praising the color purple I sat on the carpet that had suddenly turned itchy and scratchy and tried to think of what my new favorite color should be. greenBecause, for me, even at 5 years old it was better to be wrong than it was to be the same as someone else. By the time I was called upon, despite my lowered hand, my favorite color was green. Pink, red, blue and purple had been declared by my classmates many times over. Green. I didn’t particularly like green and neither did my classmates if the looks of squinty eyed, cocked head stares were any indication. But the looks of judgment were much, much preferred to a disinterested nod that I was the same as everyone else. I declared green as my favorite color when I was 5 years old and I boldly stuck by that outrageous lie for my entire life. My best friend Bobbi Lee would have items like a purple trapper keeper and her bedroom was painted purple and I would quietly gnash my teeth in unvoiced envy. I learned to like green, I learned to appreciate green, but it is not my favorite color. But neither is purple. Not anymore. In fact, I don’t actually have a favorite color. Because the entire Kindergarten-Favorite-Color-Debacle made me realize that the entire idea of favorites is stupid. In the words of my former 5 year old self, “If you like it so much, why don’t you marry it?” But seriously though. The only thing declaring a favorite anything does is fill your world with obvious and astonishing limitations. It limits your entire life until you live in a nice little box. Ah! I found the mysterious box. outside the boxA little box we build around children beginning in Kindergarten and then when we are ready to push them out into the world on their own we tell them, “Think outside the box!” We don’t talk about how we all got in the box. Is it fair to tell them to get rid of the box when we don’t tell them what the box is or how they got there? What box? I’m in a box? How’d I get in a box? The truth is we all put you in that box unintentionally. Oops. Our bad. Hey kid, you wouldn’t be in the darn box if we hadn’t shoved you into it in the first place. We shoved you there and taped the lid closed. Why do we ask a 5 year old what their favorite color is when they only know about 8 colors total at that point? Why don’t we just ask them what color they like that day and then take that and show them all sorts of variations on that color and then talk further about how they are all beautiful and wonderful and how many can we see when we look out our window today? And then do it all again the next day with different colors. I don’t have a favorite color. I don’t have a favorite book. I don’t have a favorite show. I don’t have a favorite song. I don’t have a favorite food. I don’t have a favorite vacation location. Don’t even get me started on having a favorite friend. friendshipDeclaring that you have a ‘best’ friend might be the cruelest and meanest statement in the history of all oblivious and well meaning statements. When you declare that someone is your best friend, what you are really doing is telling all of your other friends that they didn’t make the cut and they just aren’t as special. Which is a horrible thing to tell someone you consider your friend. It’s a horrible thing to think, actually. All of my friends are unique and interesting and they each bring something wonderful and enriching to my life. I would never diminish one of them by declaring that one person was my ‘best’ friend. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to us to rank our friends value if we hadn’t been taught to live in such a small box. We shrunk our world until we can only have one of each thing. My favorite. My best. PoppyCock! I refuse to live in the box. I refuse to put my children in the box. I vote we burn that stupid box. While we are at it let’s burn the word favorite from our vocabulary as well. My oldest child approached me a few weeks ago and asked me if I thought her art work was better or her short stories she had been writing. I knew what she was asking. She was asking me which topic I thought she was more talented in so she could discard one and just focus her efforts on what she was ‘best’ at. purposeI tried my best to burn that box into a pile of smoldering ashes. Sweetheart, you don’t have to choose! You can have it all. Every single bit of life is yours to explore and enjoy. The world is your oyster. Or it can be if you just stay away from the box. That stupid, small, limiting box. There is no best, there is only the joy of the art. The joy in printing on paper the story in your head for others to read, creating an image for others to see, playing the music for others to enjoy. Stupid box. Stupid, stupid box. Burn it to the ground. Or better yet, let’s just not build it in the first place. Thank goodness Mrs. Forsage didn’t call on me first.
I read a funny article regarding male habits women don’t know about. Most of it was gross bathroom practices that I can assure you that we DO know about. We know about it and are appropriately disgusted by the vast and nefarious wrongdoings you commit in there. The really interesting tidbit was regarding the Male Nod of Mysterious Communication. According to the author the Male Nod of Mysterious Communication is undefinable. It’s undefinable, yet all men know exactly what it means and it conveys massive amounts of information in a single gesture. Wars and feuds have been started and stopped with the skillful and artful use of the Male Nod. I was intrigued. So I started paying attention. Since I read this article I’ve been to a black tie gala, a very intense gun class, multiple kid birthday parties, church, a safari park, soccer practice, the gym, the grocery store, fancy restaurants, an arts and crafts fair, and an Irish pub on Saint Patricks day. It is a testosterone infused, bobble head convention out there. The Male Nod of Mysterious Communication is real. It is real and it seems to communicate a simple, yet obviously important, message that all men need from each other. I see you, you see me. I respect you, you respect me. I approve of what you are doing. I’m not going to mess with you, you are not going to mess with me. And that’s it. That seems to be the magic message that all men communicate to each other each and every time they see another person with a penis. I did see two women nod to each other but the message they seemed to be communicating was more along the lines of, “Go fuck yourself Bitch, you walk towards me and I’ll pull your hair out by the roots and then kick your teeth in with my stilettos.” Not quite the same message. In fact, the exact opposite message. The Vaginaville Nod is a lot more dangerous than the Male Nod of Mysterious Communication. If that really is the totality of the communication a man needs to be 100% simpatico with another person, then women have pulled the biggest scam since we all evolved to walk upright. friendsNo one gets to visit Vaginaville with just a nod. Hours, days, years of communication must be invested by all that exist in, around, or near it’s boundaries. Books have to be read, classes taken, therapists visited, tests evaluated, personalities charted, motives broken down, cultures taken into consideration, childhoods assessed, world-views overlapped, the gender war, and education levels factored in. A nod just isn’t going to cut it. But that’s the whole point, right? Not just being okay with one another, but being understood. venn-diagramI love it when a couple or a friend discusses their relationship and they sum up the relationship with, “They just get me.” That’s really all we are looking for, right? Someone to ‘get’ us. It’s like we are a Venn Diagram and we search for the people that are the right ratio of similarities. It can’t be too similar or it’s irritating. Too little and you fall into the acquaintance or friendly stranger category. Or worse, the I loath the air you breath and wouldn’t throw water on you if you were on fire, category. tribeNormal isn’t even real. The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well yet. Our lives are one big hunt to find our special brand of normal. Our tribe. The people that are weird and disgusting in the way you are weird and disgusting. People that are interested in the things we are interested in. Willing and excited to join us in the things we are excited about. You find your tribe and then you spend a lifetime communicating to keep and cherish them. Mmmm….or do we. Did we pull the biggest scam of the century on the men? Did we persuade them to care about these deep levels of understanding or do they just love us enough to fake caring about it? Marriage: I think I got it…But just in case, tell me the whole thing again. I wasn’t listening.
I’m not sure what I imagined animals were thinking when they gave birth for the first time, but I’m pretty sure I had a vague thought that they must have an idea that they were pregnant and would just instinctively know what to do. This was not the case with my childhood dog. When it was time for my labrador to birth her puppies she was twisting around and around in circles, absolutely freaked out by these fairly large objects coming out of her body. I’m sure it was painful. I can verify that it was gross. My mom was scrambling to get her settled or just catch the puppies as they slid out in a horrific, wet and bloody plop. Kudos to my mom for handling the entire thing as my father and I were too busy racing to the bathroom to vomit. Once the birth was over, the dog just stood and stared at the puppies and then at my mom like this was her fault. Getting her to nurse the puppies was next to impossible. She kept standing up to get away from the puppies. She had managed to get them out of her, why were we trying to attach them back to her body? That image of the dog absolutely bewildered about what the heck was going on, twisting around and around in confusion while puppies just started emerging out of her body to fall to the floor, and then offended sensibilites as to why she was responsible for these alien things perfectly represents me being pregnant and having my first child. My husband is horrified by this simile I insist on using, but I think it is accurate. Never once in my life had I daydreamed about being a mom. I wasn’t opposed to being a mom as it seemed the logical course of events, I just never dreamed about it either. I moved away to California before my friends had children. I never babysat. I don’t remember ever holding a baby before I gave birth. To say that I was clueless was an understatement. mommy gainsI read every book about pregnancy, birth, raising a baby I could find. I made my husband attend each and every class the hospital provided with me. They had a series of birthing classes, a very intense breast feeding class, a class that showed you how to change a diaper/take the babies temperature/swaddle/bath them, a baby CPR class that I attended THREE times just in case, and a class devoted entirely to the carseat. Blake did NOT enjoy the intense breast feeding class attended for women only. All the information I was gathering was technical and logistical and practical advice. I had no clue how my entire heart and soul would change the moment I looked into my first born’s eyes. That was the moment I truly understood what it meant to love another being more than I loved myself. Imagine a newly planted tree. It’s a great tree; healthy, strong, full of potential. It’s young so while the roots are deep enough to keep it healthy at its current size, the tree will never be able to grow to its potential without growing deeper roots. Having Lainey pushed my roots from healthy and full of potential to deep, deep roots that opened my soul, burst opened the selfishness chaining my heart, and reached into the well of my being to begin the process of me growing into the person I needed to be. It’s a process that began with Lainey and continues to grow. motherhoodI’m a better person because of my children. The need to be better for them pushes me in a way that I would never have been motivated towards without them. And it all began with Lainey. My firstborn. My Lainey girl. I had a friend ask me why I don’t seem to tell as many funny stories about Lainey to others in person or on Facebook as I seem to do with my other two children. That made me pause as I had to question if that was accurate. I think it is and I think I know the reason why. First I need to state that I love all of my children with the same amount of passion, the same depth, the same intensity. I love them each an equal amount, I just love them each differently. They are unique and they have different personalities and different needs. But it was Lainey who first changed my entire life. She was my sole companion to rediscover my purpose. soulWhen Lainey was 6 weeks old we moved from Texas to Maryland. I had a new baby I didn’t understand and was afraid of, my body was so different I didn’t understand it, my marriage was forever changed by the arrival of a baby, my husband didn’t get home until it was late each night, I no longer had a job, I was moving to a place where I knew no one and we had very little money. I went from unlimited freedom and constant companionship to zero freedom in any area of my life and marathon sessions of being alone. To say those years were hard would be another epic understatement. But Lainey was with me every moment. Right by my side. It wasn’t just that I was her parent, it was that she was very much a part of me and a part of my entire identity. I wasn’t able to seperate that in a healthy way for years. I didn’t know how. The feelings I have for my firstborn are less lighthearted and whimsical, and more flavored with intensity and a large part of myself. It’s not better or more than what I feel for my other children, it’s just vastly different. Mom ArtWhen I have stories about Lainey, I usually hold back from sharing them with people other than family as the stories I have for her sound like bragging or extreme hubris. It’s not that she isn’t funny. The child is hysterical and she loves a good joke or a prank more than anyone. The problem is that I was never able to lighten up and relax into parenting until the second child came along. I’m glad someone called my attention to the difference. Maybe I can attempt to lighten up a bit when it comes to my firstborn and inject a little of the whimsical attitude towards parenting I display for the other two children. Lainey: just a few off the top of my head. One night you drug your sister Lily out of the bathtub when she was 2 years old and shouted, “Run free, run free, run free!” Then Lily runs out of the room and around the house naked and screaming. I asked you why you did that and you replied, “I wanted the towel you were going to use on Lily.” It took all my bargaining skills to keep you from wearing underwear outside your pants on Superhero day at school. You wanted to be Captain Underpants and would take no other suggestions. I almost had to keep you home from school because you wouldn’t change your mind. You were 4 years old and I was scolding you for leaving your breakable toys within Lily’s reach. You promptly asked, “What’s dad’s punishment for losing his keys and wallet every morning before he goes to work?” From the first time you were old enough to make decisions, you’ve made them quickly and you don’t change your mind. Ever. We would go into a toy store and you would pick a toy quickly. I would insist you look at every single option before making your final choice. Not once, not ONCE in your life, have you ever changed your mind once you’ve made a choice. Two days ago we went to choose two new pairs of glasses and I almost had to throw down with the assistant as she didn’t believe you could possibly have made up your mind over frames in less than a minute of our arrival. All you wanted for your 4th birthday was a big tub of giant earthworms. You didn’t want to fish with them, you just wanted to dig your fingers in the dirt and feel the worms wiggle around. Your father got out his tools to hang up a heavy piece of art on the walls when you were still an only child so you had to be about 3 years old. You watched him for a moment with all his tools and then asked,”Dad, are you going to screw that up?” You smashed your finger in the closet door when you were small. Granny asked you if you were in pain. Your response was the following, “Pain and suffering Granny. Pain and suffering.” You are my only child that knows how to behave in a bookstore because I had a Kindle by the time the other two were born. The phrase, ‘Act like we are in the bookstore’ has zero impact on your sisters while you immediately know that means to be quiet, stay right next to mommy, do NOT ask if we can leave yet. parentingMy Lainey girl, you have been the test subject for every parenting mistake possible and the guinea pig for every unrealistic expectation a parent could have. You’ve risen up and surpassed all those expectations. You are a trailblazer that opened my soul. I’m a better person, wife, mother, friend, child of God, and daughter because your little spirit pointed out the path and provided the desire to grow. I’ll try to lighten up and be a little more whimsical with you. Because I love you so much more than just to the moon and back.