Drought

Everything around me looked like tinder. Not the new age dating app but literal fire starting materials. Grass, plants, and the sticks that used to be shrubs – it all looked nearly dead, strangled as it were by a severe lack of rain. Those April showers we usually have somehow took a wrong turn and watered north of Florida and west of us too, skipping us almost entirely.

This morning though, I woke up to a beautiful sound. Lie. I woke up to a whining dog and children running as the squealed their desire to go bike riding immediately if not sooner. But when I let the dog out, I awoke to the most beautiful sound…rain.

Rain on trees, on the plants and on puddles of self -pooling in spots because it had been going on for a while – and I was filled with hope. The gardenias opened, the hibiscus bloomed, and the frangipanis pushed buds forward once again. The dog ran near instantly muddy tracks in the yard and I didn’t even object – that is how bad we have needed the rain.

In a few days, landscapes all around will react to the watering, recommitting to do their best and life will reach forward with an open palm in more ways than one. We sat out the bike riding, in turn favoring homework, then video games and later board games and even instruments. Rain has a way of giving us all permission to stay inside and meander through our choices, whereas sunshine seems to propel us towards what actions we should take that will yield the most noticeable results around here. Creativity and out of the box thinking unfurled as a means for initiating new ways to begin entertaining ourselves with the fleeting respite of “good” weather.

It’s funny to think that at different times of my life I saw rainy days as a hindrance – a way of rendering me unable to do something measurable or significant and how trapped I decided I was by it. When I shifted my thinking though – considering it not a time out but a time in, everything changed, including what it meant to spend a day somewhat shaped by it. My drought it seems was in my old paradigm, not the weather.

The heartbreak of daily parenting

This is what I can say about parenting without a shadow of a doubt: It will break your heart a million times. Because that is how much you care about your kid and that is how badly you don’t want to ruin them. There will be days were everything is easy and fun and funny and relaxed and filled with love you will wonder how anyone would possibly turn down the opportunity to have kids, as you can see with absolute clarity that this is simply it. Sometimes, fifteen minutes after you think that, you will coincidentally rue the day you thought having a child was a smart idea. But most of the time you will exist somewhere in the middle of those two feelings.

The list of what I want for my kids is lengthy and varied and encompasses more than I could have ever imagined tallying up. My own list is limited to survival and trying my best to be kind. I can see the issue with this disparity here…

Today, Little Sister, who has been so pumped about returning to soccer, fell apart on the field. She cried, she clung to us, she didn’t want to play, and she only wanted to play if we came out with her, the works. We waited it out; her coaches worked with her and her teammates were compassionate. She eventually rejoined the group and played great. But we had been here before and frankly I was irritated beyond belief. It would have been easier for almost everyone else if we had given up and given in, letting her sit out the game or the season.

It would have served everyone but her to do that. Because at some point, there will be obstacles that are scary or unknown or ones without any guaranteed return of success and she is going to have to make do with what she has in order to face it. It’s our job to help her uncover the truth that she has everything she needs to do that and sometimes that job sucks. Sometimes you sweat or cry or mentally curse while you are doing that. Sometimes you text your partner for the opposite side of the field all those words that you cannot say to your child and take deep breaths and try to root out your motives for feeling THIS BAD at this job.

And then somehow, the clouds break and the sun shines through and your kid joins the group or goes back to school even though they are over it and you feel like you could burst with pride over them taking small steps toward the future. And that hollow uneasy feeling that makes no room for your heart to beat in your chest sort of vanishes and you go on to the next thing be it beautiful or disastrous. That is what parenting is like.

Volunteering to sit this one out

There are things I will easily and wholeheartedly volunteer for. Did you need someone for Puppy cuddling? I am in. Want to polish your masseuse skills – you can practice on my shoulders. Are your frangipani trees heavy with flowers that you find unsightly? I will take them off your hands.

The beauty of volunteering is, of course, that by nature, you get to elect to do something. You don’t actually HAVE to do it. Here is where the disconnect occurs with people who volunteer to wrangle up volunteers. They have chosen to do that. The people they are trying to persuade have not.

I have routinely compounded the problem when I encounter these types by drawing out a one word sentence. That sentence is “No”. I could jazz it up with a “Thank You” at the end of that complete sentence if I am feeling generous. But no, I explain myself, telling them why I have declined their request (which of course opens me up to them trying to explain the flaws in my declaration).

Tonight I was approached by phone in an effort for me to sign up for more endeavors than I offered to participate in. As I slipped in to my routine of giving too much away in an effort to explain myself, I stopped, midsentence and remember that I didn’t owe anyone an explanation for what I would or would not commit to. There was a slight pause (which I personally hate) but I stayed strong and waited it out and guess what happened? It was uncomfortable for me momentarily but not for the days or weeks or months leading up to some obligation that I didn’t want to do. And that was a beautiful thing.

 

The Lady will Lunch, thank you.

 

My favorite kind of date hands down is a lunch date. In my country club hostessing days it was one of my favorite and also dreaded times of my day. (Dreaded only because I had the constant worry of missing a call while walking to a table, or had to stop a project in order to move out to the remote hostess desk). I loved facilitating business lunches best  and being a friendly face to greet people who were nervously awaiting the company of titans of industry and at times, their personal heroes.

 

Now, I am up for Italian subs eaten as they drip with house made vinaigrette onto wax lined butcher paper in the front seat of a car in a parking garage as much as the next girl, but there is something about shuffling into a bistro table or shellacked high top without the maddening dinner dining crew that I simply love. As a kid, anytime I was taken to lunch, I would leisurely begin reading or sometimes just pretend to read the entire menu before ordering a chicken Caesar salad and a Shirley Temple (still the best drink invented in my humble opinion). These days, I want to know what the servers eat in house as they are usually the people with the most intimate knowledge of the menu.

 

Lunch in our house, especially since the girls are usually in school, tends to have basics in rotation: sandwiches, salads and if I am ill equipped, sandwiches ordered out from the deli with the occasional spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s (hold the mayo and tomato, please). There is a theme and that theme is sandwiches. A lunch out though is a chance to uncover yet another way to cook chicken or if you are throwing myfitnesspal to the wind, a chance to eat wings that you didn’t even have to submerge in hot oil. (I should probably pretend that I only eat whole foods, carefully cultivated and such, but my reality is that lunches out are usually a splurge and I have adopted a firm philosophy of ordering things I don’t usually make in my own kitchen). Typically, you can order indulgently and enjoy every bite of it then simmer down on the rest of your meals and if by chance, in the worst case scenario, the lunch is a total bust – then you can always demonstrate your culinary prowess with a redeeming homemade dinner.

 

The life changing magic of getting rejected

 

I didn’t realize how bad I was at taking rejection until I started actually getting rejected all the time, just about every time I submitted my work to small publications or online organizations. I read somewhere (and I think the quote can be attributed to Denzel Washington) that the biggest threat to progress is ease. And I’m beginning to believe that more and more every single day. I have been incredibly lucky in that I took a huge chance by trying to write professionally and landed a paid writing gig three short months after I declared my intention. Prior to that I put it out there and the universe answered back loud and clear in the most magnificent way imaginable. Since then I’ve taken quite a few shaky steps and proverbially wobbled my way into higher-quality writing. I think that my irritation or dissatisfaction lately with myself has come from a place where I am seeing a big disconnect between my expectations and my current situation. It hasn’t been easy and in a way in this particular arena that’s kind of new to me which makes me sound like a total jerk but I am going to write it anyway because I am more concerned with getting my thoughts down so I can sort them out than I am with worrying about how someone else might perceive me for thinking them in the first place. If this seems a little like I am rambling it’s probably because I’m totally rambling. But I’ve learned in this time that I have to work my way through all the crud to get to the gold. I was worried in the beginning about posting The Crud because I confused my blog with a totally representation of my writing and I have quickly learned that they’re not the same thing. 

 

This blog has provided me with a space where I can practice and stretch my wings and get valuable feedback from other writers as well as people that love me (and sometimes both) in order to be the best version of myself. Every blog post that I write is not indicative of hours spent in rewrites and edits for creatively thinking about how to use prose expertly. It’s more of a crash pad. For a very long time a part of me wanted to constantly (and probably did) apologize for that but I’m learning as I’m going but I’m not at all sorry for working my way through challenges and I have rejection to thank for that.

 

In Real Life

 

You will fall apart a lot. And that is okay as long as you get yourself together and keep going. That sounds like a placating blanket statement when you are in between a rock and a hard place (and I swear I know this intimately). You can be positive (or at the very least project a positive attitude) and drive out fear by expanding all the hope that you can possibly muster and then something as innocuous as one shift in your paradigm will occur and you will fall apart. Notice how I said YOU. Because truly “it” doesn’t fall apart. You do, I do, and we all do.

 

In a filter it can look perfect, or at least very well put together. With the right caption, a friend’s heartache or a parent’s suffering seems less real somehow or shiny in a way that seems like it is a beacon of some sort for others; a teaching tool for us all. That doesn’t translate to real life. In Real Life it’s complicated and people are messy, but we have to keep trying. Our job is to be as kind as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can as often as we possibly can.

 

 

 

Above all else

 

In the minds of a public school kindergartener, only three things will remain. How deeply you loved them. How often you told them about it. And how frequently you proved it by going to lunch with them.

 

I wrote an uncensored post about my outright disdain for the parents who somehow make it to lunch with their children every single week which I have submitted to Scary Mommy and if it’s picked up for run I will hear back about it on Wednesday (fingers crossed for me please friends). Even if they pass, it felt great to write specifically because I love the cathartic process of filtering all of my FEELINGS through the medium an rage-filled gnashing of keys on the keyboard until it doesn’t unsettle me quite-so-much. I know, you, my fellow bloggers feel me on that…

 

Anyway, I wrote that impassioned post prior to today’s meltdown of events known as  WHAT THE ACTUAL YOU-KNOW-WHAT. And then today happened. A day that I had already planned to go to lunch with me kids (and did for the record, bringing pizza) and I survived what predated that thirty minutes of my life with my dignity (mostly) intact.

 

Here is what happened:

 

Little Sister (henceforth known as she-who-only-mildly-tolerates-going-to-school-even-during-book-fair-week if you get my drift) was sick last Monday and stayed home from school. She then went Tue, Wed and Thursday as school was closed for Good Friday. (Also, let the record reflect Big Sister enjoys going to school. Immensely. Even on her birthday. Naturally she attended Mon-Thur last week). Somewhere in between organized Easter Egg Hunts and then a visit from the bunny himself over the weekend it dawned on she-who-only-mildly-tolerates-going-to-school-even-during-book-fair-week that she would in fact, be returning to school on Monday. While she controlled her apprehension during the carried to school apparently at the sight of her teacher being out from school today and being placed in “Split-class” a process where, if a teacher doesn’t have substitute coverage the class is split among the other classrooms, she-who-only-mildly-tolerates-going-to-school-even-during-book-fair-week lost hope. I received a call from the schools clinic explaining that she was with the nurse after crying in the classroom for the first hour plus of her morning.

 

When I arrived at school I was met with those hiccup choke sobs and what I can only describe as a cautionary tale against letting a six year old have free rein over her own massive candy stockpile. She wanted me to take her home immediately, if not sooner and promptly reschedule our lunchtime visitation for tomorrow – when she was feeling more up to accepting that kind of charity. Sigh. I calmly explained that I would take her home if that is what we needed to do but I would first need to go home and make lunch for Big Sister, then drop it off for her with an explanation for my absence and that if we went this route I would not be rescheduling our lunch date. Now, I understand some people will be repulsed that I didn’t take the cues of my child and simply usher her back home to bed, thrilled that she could assert herself and her feelings and desires about school attendance today. To that I can only say, whatevs (not a word and yet I am using it here).

 

I gave her a separate option as she was clearly over tired and I was in no mind to go to lunch twice over the remaining thirty days of school. I would go with her and splash water on her face and take deep breaths with her until she calmed down. She would then participate fully in the remainder of instruction time before lunch and I would bring pizza and then take her and her sister home early (close to two hours off of the school day). She agreed. But not before trying to renegotiate, which I outright rejected.

 

In the end, when I saw Big Sister she looked overly tired and green under the gills (weird how ten bajillion pieces of miniature candies and too little sleep will produce those effects in children…) which made me that much more confident in my decision to take them both home a little early. As I sat with them at lunch, they took their time carefully chewing and enjoying our time together and I went from feeling like a total filure to feeling like I would be able to laugh at this all one day. As we were getting up from the table Little Sister pointed out a pal sitting with an adult at another table – telling me this was Name and Name’s family member who never misses a Monday at lunch with Name. Normally, I would sink down at that but confident in my own best-possible-effort, I smiled and thought Whatevs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am one of those people who didn’t listen to me

 

A long time ago when I was sure of myself and confident in my grocery shopping abilities I wrote a somewhat cynical post about it here Times you should not go to the grocery store…. Okay, so it was yesterday. But a lot has changed since then. I needed to get mushrooms and au jus today (Easter Sunday) for one thing. Then I fought against the masses to secure such things and came home triumphant and unwilling to admit defeat for having gone against my own advice. Until I started making the Caesar salad dressing and realized I had no lemons…

 

Times you should not go to the grocery store…

I feel like the overwhelming message of social media today is something along the lines of OH MY GOODNESS WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING IN THE WORLD AND WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE IN THE GROCERY STORE TODAY?! To which I reply in a gravelly, seasoned- by- life voice “Uh, it’s the day before a holiday. A holiday that stores still universally shut down for” and then I keep hypothetically rocking on my front porch while shaking my head at the misguided youth of America (even though I still have a toe in that community).

To be helpful instead of spiteful I have compiled a quick list of no-fly or “no-buy” in this instance, times of the grocery store so as not to leave with a semi-permanent eye twitch. (Because let’s face it, if you are in the grocery store with any more than one child and any sort of a budget whatsoever you are leaving at least a half of a step away from being your “best self”). Here goes:

UNACCAPTABLE TIMES TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING:

1) THE DAY BEFORE A HOLIDAY

This seems self-explanatory but I will indulge you. I am a home cook. That means that although I have no formal culinary training, I take responsibility for feeding my family almost every night. Traditionally, I make at the very least two meals each day but since we have had children that number has exploded exponentially with the addition of “snacks” which now means I offer two to eleventy-seven options per person per day. Heretofore, I am no stranger to the grocery store, because guess what? EVERY SINGLE DAY HUMANS LIKE TO EAT. And I facilitate that need for four humans per day. Yes, my husband is a grown man. Yes, he can handle tackling his own food. And Yes, I still generally handle it for him because I love him and simply, I want to. It is no surprise to me that after dawn breaks, I will need food to feed everyone in our house, therefore I routinely grocery shop. However, there are people who only do this on special occasions, such as holidays, or the days literally just before a holiday which means EVERYONE WHO SPENDS LITTLE TO NO TIME IN THE GROCERY STORE WILL BE TRYING TO NAVIGATE THE AISLES THEY ARE INNATELY UNFAMILAR WITH. You need a tomato and a small jar of Montreal seasoning? Guess what? You aren’t going anywhere anytime soon because there are seventeen people in produce on phones asking some remote person to google how many cloves of garlic they need for Nana’s famous garlic smashed red potatoes. That Montreal? Ha! It happens to be on the same spot as ALL THE SEASONING where everyone who has resisted seasoning anything ever has decided to camp out while they watch TASTY videos on Facebook and try to remember how to make a standing rib roast rub.

2) THE DAY OF A HOLIDAY

(see above buuut) Legitimate grocery stores know better than to stay open on this day. Which means you will be doing all of the above however you will be doing it from the comfort of three places. 1) the dollar store – only they won’t have Montreal Seasoning (or fresh tomatoes) so you will end up buying Shmontreal seasoning that unfortunately doesn’t contain cracked pepper or course sea salt and that caprese salad you wanted to make with fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes will turn into chips and queso (a lovely accompaniment to Nana’s garlic smashed red potatoes I am sure) because you will only be able to scrounge up diced canned tomatoes and an off brand block of Velveeta cheese. 2) Walgreens – this is a step up from the dollar store which only means that most people will look there first for the Shmontreal seasoning, diced tomatoes and Velveeta cheese. If by chance the store has not been cleared out of such goods, you will end up paying $27.15 for those three items. Or 3) my personal badge of last minute shame – the Gas station. Here you will find neither Shmontreal seasoning nor diced tomatoes but will end up buying a bottle of Kraft Italian dressing as a substitute marinade for Dad’s famous roast as well as pork rinds and canned chee-Z sauce to be served as an appetizer. (I am not judging here, but if you find yourself at this juncture, feel free to buy a quart or two of malt liquor, because I am pretty sure you will find that alliances have been severed when you return home…).

3) THE DAY AFTER A HOLIDAY

Those who coupon with a capital C will mow you down if they feel you stand between them and their next seventy-five percent off. You may be out for a gallon of milk or some other actual necessity but they see you as one thing; a hindrance that is encroaching on the quest to score Mariah Carey body spay (SPRING FLING EDITION!) for the ultra-low price of $4.99. Skip this and pour water in your kids’ cereal for one day – they will survive.

Do yourself a favor. Buy a calendar. Look at it. Note the holidays. Even if you are spiritual/non-religious. This will come in handy so that you never have to look at the gas station the way I do.

Making memories not Easter eggs

I have the fondest memories of my mother patiently facilitating all four of us kids so that we could make Easter eggs. She would make the time to stop and get cartons of eggs, that too-large-for-the-cupboard-shelf bottle of white vinegar and those thin wafers of primary colored dye. Then she would set to work, hard boiling the eggs in a large pot then setting them in an ice bath and having us tape down newspapers before making the different colored tints we would be using. She would clean out the pastel hued Styrofoam containers the eggs came in and then we’d set about coloring the eggs first with a white crayon or taping off sections to develop patterns before we’d take turns dipping the eggs into baths of red or blue or yellow with that copper octagon-shaped spoon.

I am sure that I have romanticized the hell out of this scenario because dyeing Easter Eggs with my own children went absolutely nothing like that. In the early years, I would do them myself, carefully gathering tips from Martha Stewart Living magazine or crafting books from the library (Pinterest had yet to take off and Facebook was still in its infancy so I had to physically collect these things…). But as our babies got older they wanted in on the action. The first few years I made all the rookie mistakes – making too many eggs (who doesn’t love the smell of three dozen hard boiled eggs in their fridge for several days?!), forgetting to buy the dye (always have stickers on hand. LOTS of stickers.) and my personal favorite, the year I bought brown eggs (for the record, Mr. Take a year thought I had just forgotten to buy eggs to dye in addition to the ones we usually cooked with). But as my skill level increased, my kids’ interest in the project waned.

Last year, I had set out disposable cups, bought rubber gloves for them to use and even had outdoor stations for them to “create” in. Little Sister made exactly two, which she promptly cracked and ate and Big Sister made one and then cried because she didn’t like how it came out. In the end, I dropped the remaining eggs in the dye cups and cleaned up the rest of the mess, remembering ten or fifteen minutes later that the eggs were still in the cups. For the next week I ate emerald green, ruby red and deep, deep purple stained egg whites on my salads. I swore then that this year would be different.

As I was grocery shopping earlier this week I contemplated buying pre-made hard boiled eggs from the deli for salads and I remember my pact with myself. There across the aisle sat dozens of already colored hard boiled eggs and I mentally patted my own back for my cleverness in circumventing disaster. When I showed the girls later they were stunned. How could I have done the eggs without them? they wondered. When I told them I hadn’t – that I had bought them already done they were confused. Why would I possibly buy them when it was SO MUCH FUN to make them together?! they countered, then launching into a beautiful (but inaccurate) version of last year’s events, making no mention of the struggle or the tears…