Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Message of the Innkeeper

I am not going to lie. I have struggled immensely this year with finding that ever-elusive Christmas spirit. It is true, 2014 has been a year that has chewed me up and spit me back out. But so have other years. I am poor this year. But I have been poor other years. I am exhausted this year. But I have had two children born in November, so I know I have been exhausted other years. The challenges I have faced this year have been unique. But I have faced challenges in other years. I am not sure what it is with this year, in particular, that has made it so hard for me to feel the Christmas spirit. But it has evaded me completely.

None of the things that typically bring me joy at Christmastime have been able to work their magic on me this year. Not the Christmas music that I usually enjoy so much. Not the smile of pure wonder that my 4-year old had when we first lit up the decorated Christmas tree. Not my ever-growing army of stoic, festive nutcrackers. Not the bright and twinkling lights on the houses around town. Not hot chocolate. Not eggnog. Not the glowing garlands and snowflakes arched over Main Street. Not the pleasure of choosing just the right gift for each of my children that I know they will love. Not even watching my favorite Christmas movies (Although, did I still laugh during Elf? Is there sugar in syrup?? Then yes!) I have truly been this grotesque hybrid of the Grinch, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Mommy Dearest. It has not been pretty, let me tell you.

I had all but given up and just written this year off as The Year Where My Heart Was THREE Sizes Too Small.

Then, the Sunday before Christmas rolled around, and with just the right sprinkling of "I hate Sundays!" (4 year-old) a dash of "I don't want to wear this STUPID dress!" (10 year-old) and a pinch of "NO! You can't touch my hair!!" (13 year-old) we were on our way to church. I sat smashed between kids and books and snacks and toys on the bench willing myself to somehow concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas and try to find even an ounce of gladness and gratitude in my heart. It didn't happen. The speakers were good. The Christmas hymns beautiful. But I still just wasn't feeling it. It was crowded. I was tired. I just wanted Christmas to hurry up and come so it could hurry up and be over. Then about halfway through the meeting, my 13 year-old leaned over to me and puzzled, "Why don't we know the innkeepers name?" I answered her, "Because he wasn't really that important to the story." She said simply, "Yes he was. He is the one that made room for them."

Oh. My eyes filled with tears as I sat and thought about what she had said. I wasn't the Grinch. I wasn't Scrooge. I wasn't even Mommy Dearest (ok, maybe a little bit Mommy Dearest.) I was the innkeeper. And not the one that had made room. One of the countless ones that had turned the weary travelers away. My inn was full. It was so full of sadness and anxiety and fear and hopelessness and self-doubt that I had not bothered to make room. There was no place in my heart for the Christmas Spirit. Because I had not made room. And that room that the innkeeper made for them, that space in a stable? Was it worthy of them and the child they were bearing? No. Not even close. But they stayed there anyway because he had made a place for them.

It was indeed only a short 4 days before Christmas, not a lot of time left to bask in the glow of the spirit of the season, but you'd better believe I have spent these last few days basking. And glowing. And kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

And remembering that as the travel-worn, distressed Joseph and the pregnant, exhausted Mary went patiently from door to door to door bearing with them the one Gift that was more precious than anything else in the world, they didn't force their way in. They didn't cry and plead and beg until someone opened their door to them.

They waited, until someone made room.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Life Lessons From Thumper

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." -Thumper (and mothers everywhere)

"Do unto others as you would have done unto you." -Pretty Much Every Religion

"Opinions are like armpits, everyone has one and most of them stink." -Someone Smart

There is a church song I learned as a child that is titled Kindness Begins With Me. Actually kindness begins with K. And, unfortunately, unkindness begins with U. But that's besides the point. The point? The point is that it's not that hard to be kind. It really isn't. I mean, sure it's also easy to be mean. (I should know. Just ask my children.) But it doesn't take TOO much extra effort to just be a little bit kind.

The thing is that everyone has opinions. And I would know. I have an opinion on almost everything. Maybe even everything. (And if you have read my blog for more than a week, or seen any of my Facebook posts, I guess you would already know that.) However, almost all these opinions should be kept to oneself. Especially when they are likely to offend. Unless one is asked one's opinion, in which case one should tread very carefully when answering. (Husbands everywhere know exactly what I mean.)

I promise I'm not preaching. This advice is for me as much as for anyone. I am an extremely opinionated person. I have opinions on things I really have no business even having an opinion on. Like when and where flip flops should be worn. (Spring. And Summer.) And whether or not certain things like socks should be worn with open-toed footwear. (NO!) And how toilet paper should be placed on the roll. (Over. Always over. And if I use the bathroom at your house and it's under, I will change it.) I really do genuinely try to not share my opinions, though, if I think they might offend someone. Except with those very few people who I hope know me well enough to know that I am just mouthy, but my heart is in the right place. (So, I apologize to those of you who wear flip flops in the winter, or socks with sandals. I meant no offense. Those of you who put your toilet paper wrong, though, just fix it would ya? Geez!)

I don't know if the semi-anonymity of the internet age contributes to people thinking that everyone wants to know their every thought on every issue. Or if people have always been rude and opinionated and now we just have a faster and easier way of finding that out. I don't know. What I do know is that everyone seems to have an opinion on Every. Thing. And they will not hesitate to let you know what it is. Particularly when it comes to how you are raising your children. When and where and how you give birth. How many kids you should have. How old you should be when you have your kids. How the kind of food you feed your children may ruin them for life. Whether or not breast is best. (BreastFEEDING, you perv.) Whether or not certain Christmas traditions mean that you're raising your child to live in fear for the rest of their life. How much TV they should watch. Vaccinations. Naps. Bedtimes. The list goes on and on.

And these opinions are not just limited to the internet. I should know. After dealing with our 3 younger (translation: needy and sometimes insane) children alone because my husband has been out of town for almost a month, I went to lunch with a friend today. With my tired, ornery, willful, loud 4-year old. Not really my first choice, but I have working-and-going-to-school mom's guilt over not spending enough time with him and he wanted to come. What could possibly go wrong? Today? Everything. I won't rehash all lunchtime shenanigans, but suffice it to say that I did not enjoy my lunch. And at one point had to drag (unusually strong) said 4-year old out of the restaurant so as not to disturb everyone else who still had a chance of enjoying their lunch. It was pretty bad. And then he semi-calmed down. I shoveled down my now-cold lunch and was ready to hightail it out of there. Then he decided to stand up in the booth to see the top of the blinds. Probably the least obnoxious thing he had done all day. Some grouchy grandma in the booth next to us (who had just gotten there and hadn't even been witness to the previous insanity) snapped at him to sit down. And then proceeded to tell her friend about what a crappy mom I am. Like I don't already know. Duh! I have a 13 and 10 daughter. They tell me ALL the time.

It's not the first time a stranger has questioned my parenting. It won't be the last. I can typically handle it with some grace. Usually it rolls right off me like water off a table after your kid has filled his chocolate milk lid with it to bathe his miniature Batman in. Usually. Today was just one of those days, though. Those end-of-my-rope kind of days. It's really just been like that all week for me. I wasn't really in the mood to hear someone's opinion on my crappy parenting. Really. Not. But I did anyway. Because people apparently can't keep their opinions to themselves. I mean, she could've just waited until I was out of earshot at least. Meanie. It ruined the whole rest of my day. Literally.

Rant over.
I'm making it my New Years Resolution to have less opinions. Truly.
The moral of the story is this: Just be kind. Really. Online. In person. Wherever. Whenever. You don't want to be responsible for ruining someone's day.
Also: If you are mean to me (or in general) I may blog about you. Just ask Jody.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Being 40

Well, it's been almost a year of being 40. Not quite a full year, but with a February birthday, it feels like I've been 40 all year. I was not ok with turning 40. Truth be told, I'm still really not ok with it. But it didn't ask. It just came anyway. Like in-laws or children into the bathroom or the uncontrollable urge to pee when you jump. Or run. Or walk. Or stand up. It just came. Mean 40. You know how when you're young, you hear adults say things like, "I just don't FEEL old." And you're like, "Whatever dude. You are so freaking old." Well, guess what? Now that's me. It's a mean trick, this aging. You know it's coming. But you don't actually believe it until BAM! It hits you. Like in-laws or children into the bathroom or the uncontrollable urge to pee when you jump. Or run. Or walk. You get the picture. So. Cruel.

Well, I decided to take this time at the end of the year to reminisce about things I've realized this {almost} year of being 40.

#1. 40 is Too Old To Live On Student Loans
It is one thing to have to use student loans for living expenses when you are in your 20's. I mean, realistically your bills at that point are like $30 a month for car insurance, $18 utilities after splitting it 7 ways with all your roomates, and Hot Pockets and Cup O' Noodles for food. You might even could get you some sweet new furniture from the Goodwill at the beginning of the semester. Maybe you have one kid in diapers or rent on a 2-bedroom apartment or something, but typically your cost of living is fairly low. And you have years & years ahead of you to pay it all back. 
But 20 years, 4 kids, and a mortgage payment later. Well, if you can't afford your living expenses by then, you're pretty much screwed. I totally am. It's been one of the worst years for us financially in a long, long time. I had no intention of taking out any more student loans at this point, but life had a different plan for me. Now I'm accumulating debt I may not even live to pay off. And at a time when I should be putting money into a retirement account or at least a down payment on a burial plot....

#2. My Untimely Death Will Be Less Tragic
I never said I wasn't morbid. All year what's been running through my mind is that if {heaven forbid} I were to die in a freak snowplow accident or my flat iron fell into the bathtub while I was trying to relax amidst Spiderman and a Ninja Turle loofah or if my car were to explode while I was pumping gas because I stubbornly refuse to obey the signs that say not to get back in your car while you are pumping gas, the headline will no longer read, "Young Mother of 4 Dies in Terrible Accident." Because I'm not a young mother any more. Still a mother, just not a young one. Thus my death will seem far less unfortunate.
And teenagers will think, Oh she was 40? Eh, isn't that about when people usually die?
It's sick, I know. But that's the way my mind works.

#3. Having To Explain Myself When I Shop
Walking into an Aeropostale or Forever 21 or Rue 21 or any other such legal drinking-age numbered establishment makes me feel incredibly self-conscious now. I feel like I have no business being there at all. And I owe the hot young body-pierced employees an explanation for even setting foot in their shrine of sparkly glitter perfume, body chains, loud clothes and louder music. I am fairly certain there is more than a hint of sarcasm and sometimes even a not-so-discrete eyeroll when they ask if they can help me with anything. To which I always respond that I am shopping for my daughter. Which I usually am. Because not even the dark lights at Hollister can hide the fact that I am much too old to be shopping there for myself. {Just don't tell anyone that my new favorite lounge pants are the joggers I just bought. Cuz I told them all they were for my daughter.}

#4. I'm Never Getting My Body Back...Or a Tummy Tuck
With the exception of a few months of ..ahem...summer vacation, I have worked my tail off at the gym this year. {Figuratively speaking. Very figuratively.} Because I was turning 40. And going on a cruise. And I was convinced that with a little hard work I could reclaim my body from the super-villain duo of childbearing and time. Nope. It's never going to happen. Ever. Dream: Shattered.
And it used to be that if I wanted to drop a few pounds, I'd just switch to diet soda and eat nothing but Whopper Jrs, Chex Mix, baby carrots and the occasional Rice Crispy Treat for a week. That is a young girl's weight loss plan, my friend. Now it takes me 3 weeks of non-stop exercising and eating nothing but...nothing just to shed the pounds I gained over the weekend. True story.
And knowing years ago that my body would never look the same after having children reside in it, I told my husband, "I will be sick for months straight, go through long & painful labor, and let your babies ravage my body, but I get a tummy tuck when I'm done." He said ok and we struck a deal.
Ain't happening. {See #1} Not even Sallie Mae is going to give me enough money for that.

#5. I'm Even Too Old for Old Men to Hit On
Let's be honest, with very few {super rare and/or super creepy} exceptions, even men well over the age of 40 like women younger than 40. Not that I'm in the market or anything. And even in my younger years, I was never the kind of girl who had all eyes on her when she walked into a room. But I like to think I turned a FEW heads back in the day. Not anymore. Not even the necks ridden with arthritis crane in my direction. No flattering words. No cat calls. {Unless I'm with my beautiful young daughter, and I will hurt somebody over that.} It's enough to make a girl want to walk past a construction site. From WAY across the street. Just to see.

So there you have it. 5 things about being 40 that I have pondered on this year. I mean, I can always say that I'm really just 22 with 18 years of experience. But who am I fooling? Not the workers peddling sequin stilettos at Forever Young Shoes, that's for sure. And let's face it, nobody is young or 21 forever. I don't care what you name your store.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All I Really Need to Know I Learned By Watching Rocky

My semester is officially over. Technically, it was over last week. But it's not really over until the grades are posted. And they are. I got an A in English, Psychology, & Stats. (That's right, an A. In Stats. Unbelievable.) I got a B in stupid freaking Art. Because I forgot to turn in an assignment that was due on Halloween. I blame my children.

At any rate, it's finally over. And this is what I feel like:

I mean, I won right? But look at my ugly beat-up face. Dang I got beat up. 

I love the Rocky movies. They are just the right amount of gritty and violent and cheesy, not to mention sheer montage perfection. My husband does not like them. I think there is something wrong with him. He wouldn't even buy them for me for Christmas one year because he said they were stupid. I think there is a deep dark hole somewhere, maybe in North Dakota, for people who do not like the Rocky movies. I thought about reporting him as a terrorist, but then he wouldn't be around to check the mail. Or shovel snow. So I thought better of it.

But that is neither here nor there (although it is decidedly unnatural and UN-American.) The point is that I learned everything I needed to know this semester from my friend Rocky Balboa. Because he is awesome.

#1. It's Good to Be Able to Take a Punch
Rocky may not know much, but he knows how to throw a punch. He can break the ribs of a giant slab of hanging frozen meat. And have you seen what he can do to some Russian logs?? It's amazing. But Rocky doesn't just know how to dish it out. The man can take it. Jab after punch after uppercut after hook. Whether it's a headbutt from Hulk Hogan or a cross from Mr. T, the man can take it and just keep going. Well, let me tell you, I feel like I got my a*& handed to me this semester. One thing after another after another. I am bruised, I am bloody, I am exhausted. But I am still standing. My legs are shaking underneath me, but I am standing. Because Rocky taught me how to take a punch and get back up.

"It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."

#2. You're Never Too Old 
The year is 1976. Small time amateur boxer Rocky is challenged to a heavy-weight championship match by pro Apollo Creed. He is a little out of shape (But he is NOT a bum as some might have you believe.) With just a little help from Penguin of the original Batman series and some catchy theme music, he is in tip-top shape in no time. I mean, he made it ALL the way to the top of the stairs and everything. The man is in his prime. And I don't care what the so-called decision was, Rocky had that title. 
Fast forward to 2006. Rocky is old. Like older than me old. And he may not have beat Mason "The Line" Dixon, but the man held his own. And you don't see any statues of Dixon around, do you? Rocky was old, but still fierce. Just like me. Because you're never too old.

"If this is something you gotta do, then do it. Fighters fight." 

Apparently, even when they are old enough to collect social security. And a little brain damaged besides.

#3. Go One More Round
In both Rocky I & II, the man goes 15 rounds against Apollo Creed. 15 barbarous, rib-breaking rounds! Boxing matches don't even have that many rounds anymore. Admittedly, he only goes 3 rounds against Mr.T in Rocky III but those were some brutal rounds. I mean the guy said he was gonna bust Rocky up and he wasn't playing. I pity the fool who doubts it. Against Ivan Drago, AGAIN he goes 15 rounds. And winds up ending the Cold War and uniting Russia and America in the process. That's impressive. The point is, never give up. Even when you don't feel like you've got another round in you. You do. Keep going. And just like Rocky told Clubber Lang, you tell life:

"You ain't so bad. You ain't so bad. You ain't nothin!"

#4. There's Nothing Quite Like Good Old-Fashioned Hard Work
The Rocky training montages are arguably the best part of the franchise. Who can forget the moment a triumphant Rocky raises his hands above his head when he makes it up the steps of the Philidelphia some-kind-of museum-or-government-building-or-something in sheer victory? It's a great moment. But it doesn't even compare to the montage from Rocky IV featuring the formidable, eternally sneer-faced Dolph Lundgren training in his state-of- the-art Soviet facility and receiving Rasputin-made powerful mystery injections. Because there is Rocky, bearded and living in a cabin out in the middle of Siberia, lifting wagons, splitting wood, and jumping rope in a barn like a mad man. I mean how can a guy on a fancy treadmill even compare to one who can outrun a car?? My heart's on fire just thinking about it.
I am not one for spending hours on homework or on all-night study sessions, but this semester, and Rocky, taught me something. Nothing can beat good old-fashioned hard work.

"You're gonna have to go through hell. But when it's over, I know you'll be the one standing. You know what you have to do. Do it."

#5. The World Ain't All Sunshine & Rainbows
That's a quote from the man himself, so you know you can believe it. The world is indeed not all sunshine and rainbows. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that it is mostly sunshine & rainbows. It's pretty much predominantly clouds and crap. True story. Life will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. This semester damn near did that to me. And I am not at the end of my schooling. Not even close. I have many semesters ahead of me, but guess what?

"Yo Adrian, I did it!"

And I'll do it again, too. Just watch me.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Losing My Religion. (Not Really. Just My Mind.)

A friend recently sent me a {freaking hilarious} list entitled, 35 Things All Toddlers Will Lose Their S*** Over Today. It's funny. And true. And lists things like:
 #8. Underwear is Ouchy
#16. Sun went behind a cloud  &
#13. Mac n' Cheese is too orange.

A truer story has never been told, my friends. My kids are mostly past the toddler age, but I have an impeccable memory when it comes to the tantrums and trials and sheer insanity that is raising little ones. My youngest is now 4, which I'm not sure qualifies him for toddler-status anymore, but if he's not, somebody forgot to inform him of that fact. Cuz he loses his s*** daily over the most insignificant things imaginable.

For example:

* I crush up cornflakes and fry them in butter to put on the sour cream potatoes that I make for Thanksgiving. Well, Officer Lincoln of the Incorrect Use of Cereal Patrol just about lost his dang mind over the misuse of said corn flakes. Like truly about lost it. Like was screaming and yelling and crying, "THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU DO WITH CEREAL!!!" for a good 20 minutes. (Naked. Because he had just gotten out of a bath he didn't want to take. And wasn't about to put on clothes he didn't want to wear.) Poor innocent Audrina, who was simply trying to help by doing the crushing received quite the clawing, and scratching, and pinching. Police brutality at its worst, let me tell you.

* I thought when I finally had a little boy after 3 {lovely, but high maintenance} girls that I would save myself some of the daily drama that is getting-a-child-dressed. Nope. Lincoln may be the pickiest of ALL my children. He is picky about his pajamas. He is picky about his underwear. He is picky about his shoes. He is picky about socks. He is picky about EVERYTHING HE WEARS. And just because he refuses to wear something today does not mean that he won't be happy to wear it on Wednesday. Because there is no rhyme or reason to his pickiness. It has nothing to do with texture. Or style. Or color. He simply is unpredictably picky. And yes, I am bigger than him and can force clothes on him. But he will just take them off. And hide them. Sometimes in the trash can. And sometimes outside.

*In addition to being picky about clothes, my stubborn little 4-year old also seems to have an opinion on everything else. Hair gel, TV shows, how you set up his Memory game, what style of cup, plate, bowl, fork he uses, who gets to turn the light switches on and off. The list goes on and on. I hate giving into his every whim, and mostly I don't. Sometimes, though, I have no choice. Case in point: He didn't like where I parked the other day when I dropped him off at preschool. So he wouldn't get out of the car. So I pulled him out of the car. Then he wouldn't walk into the building. So I carried him into the building. Then he wouldn't walk down the hall. So I dragged him down the hall. Then he wouldn't go into his classroom. And at this point, he got underneath a chair outside of his classroom and held on to the legs and screamed and cried. So I picked him up off the ground, took him by the hand, and we went back down the hall, back outside, and back into the car. And I moved to a different parking spot. Because he had already made me incredibly late getting back to work, and I had no time left to dig deep into my bag of negotiating-with-terrorist techniques. And then he went into his classroom just fine. Because he is insane. Because what the heck kind of child cares about where the car is parked?? A 4-year old one apparently.

And why is it that children melt down over the smallest, most trivial things? I am trying to have some sympathy for the little guy cuz his dad has moved away for a while, and there are very few things in the world that he has control over, so if it makes him happy to wear the red Ninja turtle socks today instead of the ones he picked out last night, OK. Fine. No big deal right?

And I'm sure he (and all children) think that grown-ups have it made and get to make all the decisions and rule the world. Except guess what? They don't. It's the sad, sorry truth. And if I could go around screaming and tantruming over all of the little (and big) things that go wrong in any given day, I so totally would. I would cry and yell and pound my fists. {And probably kick a few people if I'm being perfectly honest.} But, alas, I cannot. And neither can any of us. And that's why I might enjoy being a toddler. Just for a day.

So I could totally lose my s*** too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The More the Storm, The More the Strength

I was going through some material yesterday morning while preparing for the lesson I teach for church on Sundays (insert judgements regarding my severe habit of procrastination here.) And I stumbled upon this wonderful gem by a poet named Douglas Malloch:

    The tree that never had to fight
    For sun and sky and air and light,
    But stood out in the open plain
    And always got its share of rain,
    Never became a forest king
    But lived and died a scrubby thing.

    Good timber does not grow with ease:
    The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
    The further sky, the greater length;
    The more the storm, the more the strength.
    By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
    In trees and men good timbers grow.

And that's when she started to cry, this tree that doesn't want to fight anymore for sun and sky and air and light. This tree that doesn't want the cold or storm or wind or snow. This tree that would rather have the perfect measure of glorious sun and just the right sprinkling of refreshing rain. This tree that thinks she would be perfectly happy to be weak and dependent and doesn't see why it is so important to be strong and brave. This tree that sometimes just wants to give up because she is fairly certain she is not equipped to withstand the constant thrashing of the heavy winds that life throws her way. This tree that more often than not does not believe she is equal to the tasks in front of her.

Because someone believes she is. Someone knows just what this tree needs to grow strong and unyielding. And to nurture and teach and protect the little trees that are now growing in the protection of her shade, but will someday face the elements on their own.

This certainly does not mean that this tree won't continue to whine and complain from time to time and beg for reprieve from the storm. Because she probably will.

But she will summon up the energy and the courage to face another day, cloudy or clear. Because, in the end, someone much wiser and with much more faith in her than she has in herself knows that she can one day rule the forest. And who is she to argue with that?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I don't know how many of you have taken a statistics class before. If you haven't yet and you can possibly avoid it in the future, do so. Turn around and run my friend. Run far, far away. Trust me. Math was never my favorite subject in high school. However, as I took college classes, I gained a new apprecation for the mathematic arts. You see each teacher has their own level of pickiness about anything written. It becomes a bit of a guessing game as to how each individual professor would like your writing to be. (And I am fairly certain some are just jealous when you write better than they do. Yes, I am talking to you Religion Professor at University of Phoenix.) Then after you turn in your first paper and get a feel for what they are looking for you can adjust and adapt and hopefully do well enough to pass the class. (And by pass the class I mean get an A. Of course. #insaneperfectionist.)

With math, though, there is normally one right answer and all the other answers are wrong. 2 + 2 = 4. It doesn't matter how you write it. It needs no citation other than (Common Sense). Either x = 7 or x = 32 (We won't get into the instances where x is undefined...I don't buy into all that garbage) it doesn't equal "I don't like your writing style" or "Your thesis is unclear." There's no rubric, no incomplete sentence structure, and (best of all) no formatting. In a word: objective. And one objective class in a sea of subjective classes, well, that is what is known as a life boat.

Or so I thought when I signed up for Stats 1040. Because I am a fool. You have never met a more made up and subjective math in your life as statistics. It's not really even math. Sure, there's a number thrown in here or there, but that doesn't mean it's math. I mean, a calendar has numbers on it. That does not make it math. (Although, it may be more math than statistics is.) I won't go into too much detail so as not to lose you completely, but I will tell you that the calculator itself is harder to master than any machine since the Bowflex. It should require it's very own class called, How to Use an Incredibly Complicated Calculator That Has Words On It Instead of Just Numbers for Morons & Old People.

I know there are people out there who, doubtlessly, statistics makes sense to. I believe they are called statisticians. But I can think of nothing worse than working with stats for a living. Or for any time longer than a semester. I would rather do people's taxes. Wearing socks with sandals. True story.

Well, one fun part of stats class is probability theories. They maketh no sense to me. I know they are great for people who want to calculate their odds of winning 13 out of 46 games of roulette while playing only the number 7, but I am happy enough to know that my odds of winning anything ever are the same as my odds of my workout routine ever making me look like Jessica Biel in a bikini. One in a hugely astronomical number. Like 1 in 1,000,000 to the 7,548th power. That's all I really need to know. Not how many times I am going to draw a yellow ball out of a box with 3 other colors of balls, with or without replacement. Because if I need a yellow ball that bad, I'll just look in the box.

At any rate, trying to learn all of this crap has got me to thinking about percentages and probabilities. So I "calculated" (meaning totally made up) some numbers about things I actually run into in my real life. Just for fun.

#1. The Odds of Getting a Decent Cart at WalMart = 2.74%
To calculate this, I went to WalMart. A lot. Because I live in a small town. That has nothing but WalMart. Each time I went, I used a shopping cart. Because even if I am alone and only need one thing, I hate to carry around my very heavy purse. And because it can be used as a weapon in the event that there is only one bottle of Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer on the shelf. Plus, if you are pushing a shopping cart and looking like you are very much on a mission, less people stop to talk to you. (Did I mention I live in a small town?) So, I did some very complicated formulas and found that less than 3% of the time do I end up with a shopping cart that doesn't squeal. Or have a loose wheel. Or veer to the right. Or smell like cat vomit.

#2. The Odds of My Children Going to Bed By 9 PM = 0%
This is based on the fact that no matter how early or how often I tell my children to go to bed....No. Matter. What. They never go to bed on time. Ever.

#3. The Odds of My Husband Falling Asleep Before the End of a Movie = 98.7%
It's really 99% but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and added in a little room for sampling error. I think in 14 years of marriage, he has completely stayed awake for about 11 out of 845 movies that we have watched together. And that's giving him credit for ones where he fell asleep in the middle and woke up sometime before the end. I'm talking X-Men and Gladiator and Fast & the Furious here, folks. No romantic comedies. No Nicholas Sparks drivel. I don't know if I 'm not good company or if it is just because there aren't enough University of Utah football players in the movies we watch. Maybe it's a combination of the two. But 9 times out of 10 once the snacks are is he.

#4. The Odds That When I Buy a Box of Cereal For Myself There Will Actually Be Some Left When I Want to Eat Some = 0.14%
I have probably bought about 25 boxes of cereal for myself in 19 years. I have eaten about 1/3 of one of those boxes, combined. I am not so foolish as to think that just because I buy something for myself, I will actually get to partake of said something. Those hopes were dashed the moment my children were mobile enough to accesss the pantry. Or the fridge. Or the very back of my nightstand drawer underneath a map of Bryce Canyon. Every now and then, though, I get this feeling like if I buy my kids 12 lb bags of Fruity Pebbles and Captain Crunch With Crunchberries, they will leave my one poor tiny box of Vanilla Almond Special K alone. Silly mommy, Trix are for kids. And so is everything else. Everything.

#5. The Odds of Me Going to the Bathroom Without Someone Coming In To Ask Me Something = 3%
Kids. Husband. Doesn't matter. The kids are so tenacious, they'll just go grab a butter knife and unlock the door on those occasions when I bother to close & lock it. It's just their little way of once again letting me know that my time is not my own. That 3%? Those are the times that I am home by myself.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Not a Tunnel. It's a Cave.

I've had some moments over the past few months where I take deep breaths and think, "I can do this. I can totally do this!" Then, there are the (increasingly more frequent) moments where I think, "Um, actually no. No I cannot." I have had quite a few of the latter moments lately. Moments where the enormous undertaking that is full-time school and work, and the thought of supporting my family, and the disgustingness that is my house, and the rarity that is a home cooked meal or a full-night's sleep just build up to this crescendo of immensity and insanity that threatens to swallow me whole.

It happened again today as I registered for next semester's 14 credits worth of classes. And made the HUGE mistake of actually reading the syllabus for each of the classes. Silly, silly me (or "Fool of a Took!" as Gandalf would say.) I haven't even made it through this semester yet. Although I am dangerously close to barely surviving it. Emphasis on barely. And I'm already stressing out about next semster?? Why yes. Yes I am. And then the thoughts come. The dark, dark thoughts:

What if I can't do it? What if I can't even pass these classes? What if I picked the wrong major? What if I don't have time to get a master's degree? What if my family can't live for 4 more years on Top Ramen and love? What if I can't even get into graduate school? What if I can and I spend all of this time abandoning my children and home to get my degree and I can't even get a job? What if it turns out that nobody wants to hire a 45 year old school counselor?? (Even if she is ridiculously young looking.) I start to think about how much my kids need me and what was I even thinking going back to school. And then I think about the fact that my husband is leaving in 3 weeks to live in Salt Lake for 2-4 months (to get some training for his low-vision that he desperately needs.) And who will make my (totally disgusting) protein shake every morning and wake up our middle-schooler at 6:30 when I can't possibly pull myself out of bed? Who will wash my picky 4-year-old's laundry 3 times a week so he always has a selection of Shaun White pants to choose from every day? And it's going to snow while he's gone. And not that I am not capable, but I absolutely hate shoveling snow. ( I pretty much hate everything else about snow, too, but that's a story for another time.) Not to mention checking the mail. I don't check the mail. I don't even know which mail box is ours.

The dark thoughts are real. And they are like a big, hairy, slobbering monster sitting on my chest and making it almost impossible to breathe. Except to hyperventilate. Apparently I can still do that just fine. It is at these dark moments that I think maybe that illusive light at the end of the tunnel gets a little bit hard to see because it is not actually a tunnel. It's a cave. There is no light because there is no end. This so called "light" that everyone talks about, maybe it doesn't exist. I am walking endlessly on and on to try to get to the other side of this tunnel only to find myself finally reaching the back of a deep, dark cave. And it sounds horribly depressing, but it might very well be true. And what if it is? What if my life never gets easy? What if there is not a point where I can sit back and say, "Wow! I can't believe I got through that." Because when this is all over, chances are that something else will take its place. And what if that's just life? What if it is?

Not everything about a cave is bad, right? I mean, there're bats and creepy stuff like that, but sometimes there are also breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites. And doesn't a cave also offer protection from wind and rain and the elements? So maybe it isn't a tunnel. Maybe there is no light at the end.

But, hey, I can do cave. And I have a feeling I'm not alone in here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What You Didn't Know About the Bossy Turtle

Have you ever seen the behind-the-scenes of a model shoot? It is a feature they sometimes have in magazines to show you that things aren't always as perfect as they look. They usually show the model in hours of hair & make-up, the time and effort that goes into just the right lighting and backdrop and fans to create just the right windblown look. Sometimes they will even show you the back of the dress all done up with a million tucks and pins to make it look just right from the front. These features (I'm assuming) are meant to make us feel better. See, it took effort to create that perfect moment!! Um, whatever. The point is that the stars always look fan-freaking-tastic. And I don't know about you, but until I have a staff of a million people making sure I look like that for photographs, knowing that that's what Angelina Jolie has doesn't really make me feel all that much better.

Well, since I have already taken you through the oh so exciting contents of my purse. I thought it might be fun to let you in on the very unflattering behind-the-scenes of a Halloween 2014 picture.

This is the Halloween picture of which I speak:

No. Not A Halloween picture. THE Halloween picture. Meaning pretty much the only Halloween picture we got this year. You see, sometimes I have this need to overachieve. Sometimes I also have this idea that things will be more fun than they actually are. This looks like a super fun idea, right? Family costumes. Ninja Turtles. What wouldn't be fun about that?? What you maybe can't tell from this picture is this: 
  • Rafael is crying. And hates her mother.
  • Michelangelo just finished crying. 
  • Donatello's teeth are clenched so tight it's a wonder her jaw still works. 
  • Leonardo didn't agree with the "muscle" placement on his shirt. 
  • Rafael had me re-paint her weapon because Michelangelo had scraped off a little of the silver paint.
  • Then Leonardo was jealous because Rafael's weapon was shinier than his. So I repainted his too. 
  • Michelangelo wouldn't let me tie his shell on with brown ribbon like the rest of us. And cried and cried until we used red ribbon.
  • Donatello accidentally ordered her leggings in Medium. And didn't bother to try them on until Halloween.Which would be fine except that Medium in China apparently means, "HA HA HA! You big fat American. Why don't you stop eating?? Anything. Ever."
  • Michelangelo had to be physically restrained to get those orange ties on him.
  • Rafael couldn't see out of her mask. (And yet somehow was still crying that the sun was in her eyes.) 
  • And...there may or may not have been some profanities thrown around right before, during, and after this picture was taken. Possibly by the purple turtle.
  • Also, the purple turtle was so busy freaking out on her little herd of turtles that she totally spaced submitting a major assignment for one of her classes. Ironically, Art class. Way to go, Donatello.

I guess the important thing is that we look awesome, right? And maybe Donatello learned a lesson about themed family costumes. And just letting her kids enjoy the holiday. 

Or maybe not. Ideas for next year?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I am laying in bed last night with my arm hanging completely over the side, my poor fingers getting more and more numb by the second, thinking: Why? What did I possibly do to deserve this? I am so tired, I can't possibly stay awake another second. And yet, I can't possibly sleep with my arm like this. And why, you ask? Why can't I put my hand in a more comfortable position? Well, that would be due to a 4-year old gremlin who says he can't possibly go to sleep unless he is holding my hand.

[I know what you are thinking. Why on earth is my 4-year old gremlin even in the same room as me? Let alone laying on the floor next to my bed holding on to my hand? There is a simple explanation for that, and it is this: After almost 2 decades of fighting with my children to go to bed, I have come to the conclusion that I don't care how or when or why they sleep. I just want them to go to sleep. So I can. Not the best policy, I know. But I'm tired. I'm old and I'm tired. And I just want to go to bed.]

But I digress. And laying as far as I can on the side of  the bed so that I can hang my arm off, so my gremlin can hold my hand while he falls asleep, apparently puts me in a contemplative type mood. And I think back to almost 15 years ago when my oldest was this age. Until she was 5, I was a single mom. It was just her and I against the world. Out of necessity (we shared a room) and mutual love of snuggles (maybe me more than her) we slept in one big queen bed together. When we moved into a bigger place where she could have a room of her very own, she wanted nothing to do with it. It was a very long process to get her to her own bed in her own room. One of the steps in that process was to put her in her own bed next to mine, where, did you guess? She wanted me to reach across and hold her hand.

Another time when my children refused to be soothed unless I held their hand happened on two different occasions with two different children. Only this time I was driving. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hold your hand out to a child in the back seat of a car when you are driving? The entire time, I was just imagining the horrific ways my arm would be broken if I were to (due to my left-hand-only steering technique) get into a car accident. I would need pins and surgeries and months of rehab just to be able to use my arm again, I just knew it. But every time I tried to slip my hand out of those tiny little fingers and back to its rightful place on the steering wheel, she (it was one of my daughters both times) would undoubtedly jolt awake and cry for my hand once more. It was a long, excruciating car ride, let me tell you.

I can almost measure time by the hand-holding events in my children's lives:

  • They wrap their chubby hand around my one finger as they begin to learn to balance and walk, able, but terrified to do it alone...yet.
  • Holding on with a death grip as we cross the street together. Me, the one with the death grip this time, them, in a state of zen-like oblivion. 
  • A different kind of death grip as I drag my child by the hand screaming and fighting out of a store, restaurant, church, insert-any-public-place-here. Both of our faces red, but for entirely different reasons.
  • The first day of school. They are holding on to my one hand with both of theirs. Fearing for dear life for what kindergarten might have in store.
  • Disneyland. This time they are pulling, yanking me in directions I can't possibly go in all at once. They would let go in a second if they possibly could, but I hold on tight, not wanting to lose them in the sea of similar parent/child conjoined hybrids.
  •  Nervous, getting ready for opening night of her first ballet, my 9-year-old grabs my hand as we walk into the backstage area.(She had just finished screaming at me for not doing her hair quite right and "purposely stabbing the bobby-pins" into her head. But all is apparently forgiven now.)
  • My wonderful, independent 12-year-old surprises me by running up from behind and grabbing my hand as we walk towards the middle school for Back-to-School night. She drops it (of course) as we enter the front doors. It was so brief I almost could have imagined it. But I didn't.
  •  Heading into the auditorium for graduation. My beautiful 18-year-old and I hold hands in a gesture of relief, triumph, pride, closeness, happiness, sadness, and love.
These, of course, are just a few of the moments in the almost infinite experiences of hand-holding I have had as a mother. But trust me when I say, they get markedly fewer and much farther between. So cherish those finger-numbing, sweaty-palmed, death-gripping moments. Before you know it, the hand they want to hold is no longer yours.

At least that's what I tell my self when my arm is hanging off the side of the bed, completely devoid of feeling at 1:00 in the morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear Blogspot, Why Don't You Prove I AM a Robot??

I don't like having to prove things. People should just take it for granted that I am as funny, fabulous, and neurotic as I say I am. Maybe I've been a mom for too long. Maybe I was already all practiced up from being an awesome{bossy}, fun-loving{controlling}oldest sister. But I really like the phrase: Because I said so. Just 4 short words. Ah, but they convey so much. They say: Leave me alone. I'm exhausted. They say: I promise I know better than you. I promise. They say: I don't want to deal with you right now. They say: Seriously?? I have already given you a million reasons, and you don't want to hear any of them so this is what you get. They say: Just trust that I am an expert on everything. You're welcome.

Just a few short words, but oh so chockfull of wonderful meaning.

I certainly do not relish having to prove things that I, myself, already know are so. If I don't know something, I will usually say I don't know it. If I do know something. Just trust me. I do.

Yes, I am intelligent and hardworking enough to possess a college degree. I promise. What? I have to prove it. FINE! I'll go back to school and finish.

Yes, 12 year old. I am {mostly} smart enough to help you with your math homework.

Yes. I will prove it by letting you yell at me while I help you with your math homework.

Yes, Obama. I really cannot afford a ridiculous health insurance policy with a $10,000,000 deductible. You don't believe me? OK. Try to fine me for not having health insurance. No really. Try.

Yes, helpful Home Depot or WalMart salesperson. I really can find what I am looking for without your inept help. Truly. I am fairly certain I spend more time here than you do.

Yes, mechanic. My car really is making a strange noise. No, I did not imagine it. Yes, I know the difference between an engine noise and the radio. Even though I am a girl. No, I did not take time off work to bring it to you just for fun. Just drive it. I promise.

Yes, random stranger who is calling me in the middle of homework, and screaming, and homework, and dinner, and chaos, and life. I really don't have time for your survey. No matter how brief. Seriously.

That's all I can think of right now. But I swear I spend half of my life proving things that I already know to be the truth. So if I want to catch up on my blog reading (instead of spending one more freaking minute doing homework.) And if I want to post a comment on a particularly funny or touching or true blog post by my friend, or my sister, or a stranger, I don't want to have to prove I am not a robot to post that comment. I don't care if you do ask nicely. Trust me. I'm not.

So why don't you prove that I am.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's In My Bag

Many of you have probably seen, while flipping through the pages of your favorite glossy magazine, a darling little blurb called What's In Your Bag? or something very similar to that. It's where they ask a celebrity to empty out the contents of their purse and take a cute picture of the contents and have the star explain all the little things they just couldn't possibly live without. It usually goes a little something like this, "My skin would simply die in this dry winter air (of Hollywood, California) if I didn't have my mum + bub ultra-gentle lotion with me. It's infused with fresh pawpaw fruit, (which no one has ever heard of outside the lyrics of a Jungle Book song) so you KNOW that it is ultra-expensive and works ultra-good!" Or, "The reason why I keep my youthful glow has nothing to do with expensive make-up, plastic surgery, or Photoshop and everything  to do with spritzing myself with exactly .4 fluid ounces of No. 7 Hydrating Mineral Spray every 13.7 minutes. It's a must have!"

I am not sure what the purpose is exactly. Perhaps to make the famous person seem more real or down-to-earth to us? (Because let's face it, who doesn't carry around $80 lipgloss in 3 different shades?) Or maybe to humanize them a little? (See, even celebrities carry around 100% pure fruit snacks and banana chips to give to their nanny to give to their kids.) Or maybe it's even to make us think that WE can be just like insert-name-of-beautiful-superstar-here by purchasing a certain mineral powder or nail polish. (I don't care if you are their spokesperson, Kate Hudson, I still don't believe you use Almay foundation.) Whatever the reason, it must be a popular feature because almost any assorted women's magazine has something similar to it in it's pages.

Well, I'm no celebrity. But I do have a purse. And it is full of crap. Could I live without most of it? More than likely. Does that motivate me to clean it out? Ever? Um, no. As a matter of fact, in my closet are probably 10-13 previously used purses that still have crap in them. Mostly because there was no need to switch it over when I changed purses, and I'm apparently too lazy to do anything else with it. And if you were dying to know what I carry around in my purse, well, today is your lucky day.

#1. Toys
At any given time in my over 18 years of motherhood, my purse has been filled with various selections of toys. I don't put them in there on purpose. I'm not that nice. How they end up there, I'm still really not sure. I don't know if I absentmindedly throw them in there so as not to leave them at various doctor or dentist appointments. Or to avoid sitting on them in the car. I don't know if my kids put them in there on the off-chance that they will ever want to actually play with them. I don't know if perhaps in a last ditch effort to single themselves out from all the other quazillion toys at the house, the toys actually put themselves in my purse. I'm not sure. I just know that for almost 2 decades if you looked in my purse you were pretty much guaranteed to find at least one, but most likely, several toys there. I have migrated over the years from Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop, and Barbie shoes to cars, Legos, and action figures, but the theme is still the same: My purse is not my own.

#2. Paperwork
My purse is kind of my all-in-one diaper bag, medicine chest, file cabinet, and cosmetics case. I always seem to end up with a giant stack of who-knows-what paperwork. It changes all the time. And apparently I am never near a trash can because very little of it is anything I need. That's not to say that I don't need any of it. Because the things that are stuck in there between the junk mail, school book orders, and recipe cards are sometimes very important documents. Like medical records. And birth certificates. My purse also serves as a timeline of some sort. For instance, I can tell you that I have not changed my purse in at least 5 months. Because right on top of the pile is Fantasia's graduation program. From May. It is now October. Don't judge.

#3 Earrings and Necklaces
Most days I wear earrings. Some days I wear a necklace. For some reason, on almost all of those days I can go for most of the day without even noticing that I am wearing any jewelry at all. And then, suddenly, I get to a point in the day (typically around 4 or 5 o'clock) when I cannot stand to wear them any longer. Like I feel like I'm going to die if I have them on for even one second more. I don't get it. But, whatever the reason, 9 times out of 10 my jewelry ends up in the pocket of my purse by the end of the day. Then I can't find it when I want to wear it next. So I yell at my kids for losing it. Then I find it in my purse. But I keep yelling at my kids for it anyway. Because it's fun. And probably they deserve it for something.

#4 Receipts
A million of them. From nowhere important. Most of them so faded that you can't even read them anymore. I don't know why I save them. My kids never even bother to try anything on until after they have ripped off, shredded, colored on, chewed on or otherwise ruined the tags. So there is very little chance that I ever would be able to return or exchange anything. I'm also pretty sure that as of yet, groceries and movie tickets are still not deductible on tax returns, so that's not the reason. I think that maybe the next time a cashier asks, "Do you want that receipt in the bag or with you?" I just need to say, "In the trash, please. In the trash."

#5 Gum and Candy Wrappers
You notice the total and complete absence of actual gum or candy? Yes, often I buy myself gum to have in my purse and every now and then I throw in a mini Kit Kat or a handful of Starbursts to snack on later. Much less often, are the opportunities I have to chew said gum or eat said candy. Why, you ask? My children are bloodhounds. Greedy, devouring bloodhounds who take no thought for anyone but themselves. They never think to answer the question: Why did mom buy this pack of gum? Mostly because they never think to ask the question in the first place. Obviously I bought it so they could pillage it all and leave nothing for me. Duh! I take that back, they leave me the wrappers. Always the wrappers. As a sad reminder of what might have been.

In addition to these fun items, there is also usually some used Kleenex (Not pictured for obvious reasons. You're welcome.) A handful of pencils with no lead and pens with no ink (Because having lead or ink would render them useful, and then my kids would have them instead. To draw on the furniture with.) And a variety of over-the-counter drugs to get me through the day including, but not limited to, ibuprofen, Excedrin migraine, allergy medicine, heartburn medicine, etc. And an old 2-week dinner menu and accompanying grocery store list. (Because, you never know. I might very well make dinner again someday. It may just come in handy.) Also about 15 hair elastics. (Although, when I actually need it I can never seem to find even one.)

So there you have it. The purse of a non-celebrity. Not a thing worth more than $3. It doesn't get any more human or down-to-earth than that. And, please, don't even ask me what's in my car.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Back to School

So it turns out that I am back in school. At forty. Which, if it isn't already your worst nightmare, it should be. You'll just have to trust me on that. It used to be that I thought I was somewhat intelligent. And capable. And then I went back to college. Now the only thing I think I am is old. And...well, old. It is no one's fault but my own that I find myself in this predicament. You can even ask one of my professors who said in the syllabus that college is for people without the obligations of work and family. (I personally am of the belief that on-line classes should be taught by professors who aren't jackasses, but what do I know? I don't even have a degree.) Knowing that it is my own fault doesn't really make it any easier, though. In fact, it very well might make it harder. There is nothing like higher education seasoned with the acerbic salt of regret to make a truly pungent dish. We'll call it Rueful Noodle Casserole.

At any rate, I said you would have to trust me that going back to school at a certain age is rather difficult, but really, I will tell you exactly why. So here it is:

The Top 5 Reasons Why Going Back to School When You're Old is Poopy

1. 2Long Ago 2Be Rembered
Do you know what's harder than taking a college math class right after high school? That's right. Taking a college math class more than 20 years later. Like when your teacher says things like, "You all remember the slope-intercept equation, y=mx+b." And you are like, uh...the what-whatercept equation? No. I can't say that I do, Professor Smartypants. Or when you know for sure that you already learned all of the parts of the brain and their functions, but now think a hippocampus seems like a place for scholarly African herbivores. And the basal ganglia sounds more like it might be a tiny crew of fragrant herbs than a neuron cluster. Let's just say that there is nothing like time to completely dull the senses and rob from your memory all things academic that you studied once before. Now, the lyrics to Boys Don't Cry by the Cure? Yes, those I somehow remember. But the year Michelangelo completed the Sistine Chapel. Um, no. It is almost like starting from scratch. Except for that nagging feeling that you used to actually have more knowledge than you currently possess. It's a sad feeling indeed.

2. Homework² + Dinner + Job = Exhausting
You know what happens when you get old? You get really tired. Helping my kids with their homework was never my favorite task. But helping my kids with their homework when I have a ridiculous amount of homework myself? Well, that's just madness. I keep thinking, I'll just do my homework after they go to bed. Except guess what? They can outlast me. And then some. They don't go to bed. They are like tiny little machines that take in tiny amounts of food and can run forever! I, on the other hand, take in large amounts of grains, protein, candy, caffeine, and anything else I can get my hands on, all to no avail. By 7 pm, I could pretty much crawl into bed. And stay there. Forever. Add that to the fact that they keep asking me what's for dinner. Every. Night. I'm like, LOOK! I just made dinner last week. What do you guys want from me!? Dinner apparently. Dinner and attention and help with their homework. Demanding little beggars.

3. Everyone in school is younger than me
By everyone, I actually mean everyone. My classmates. My TA's. My professors. More than likely, even the university president is younger than I am. It wouldn't surprise me. I remember feeling old when I was 21 and attended some classes at a local community college with my sister. Then about 10 years ago I attended some night classes at a University of Phoenix distance campus. There were lots of people younger than I was, but not everyone. I felt old then. I thought when I started on-line classes at USU that there would be at least a few people my age. Nope. Not even my professors. Ok, maybe one. But the rest of them are younger than I am. A lot younger than I am. With 4 degrees each. Show-offs. My Psych 1010 TA conducts weekly webcam lecture sessions that we can attend. I tried once. I can't do it. He's like 12. I cannot manage to take him seriously. He does them from home, and I just want to call his mom and tell her to make him to clean off his dresser. It's ridiculous how old I am. 

4. Student Loan Debt
Debt is never fun. Student loan debt, as far as debt goes, is not terrible. They work with you. They give you 10 years to pay it back. The interest is comparitively low. However, I am currently at the age where most of my peers are finishing paying OFF their student loan debt. And that's for their graduate degrees. If they've deferred. And here I am, borrowing more money. Lots more money. I will probably be paying back student loans AFTER I am finished paying off my house. What the heck? Maybe I can do automatic withdrawals from my retirement checks.

5. Citations
I saved the best for last. If you have yet to hear of MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual of Style, thank your lucky stars. No really. Thank them. For some reason, I went through all of high school, and even some of college completely ignorant of these evil acronyms (and their Peter Cetera related counterpart.) I don't know how I got so lucky. It was at UOP that I was first introduced to the nightmare that is APA formatting. It seems innocuous enough, right? Just 3 little letters, how harmful could it be? You know what else is a 3 letter word? Bad. And Gag. And Ick. I won't even get into 4 letter words. That's a topic best left untouched. If you don't know about these obnoxious styles of formatting, I will just tell you this. They are from the devil. They were invented simply for the purpose of seeing just how badly you REALLY want to graduate. What's that? You don't mind writing a paper? Ok. Well now do a running header. And set 1" margins around the entire document. And number your pages. And include an abstract. And put your punctuation OUTSIDE your in-text parentheses. And compile a works cited page. With the second line of every work indented. And don't just tell me the day the on-line document was written, tell me what day you accessed it. And, oh? You've got all that down. Well, dang it, we came out with a new edition. That's not how you do it anymore. I will just say with complete candor, that it takes me longer to cite a paper than it does to research and write it. No kidding.

Well there you have it my friends. The reasons why going to college when you are old enough to have a daughter in college is, at the very least, daunting. And embarassing. And scary. And often times depressing. But since when does that stop me? Since never. What's that? I'm supposed to be working on an English assignment right now instead of blogging. Fine. You caught me. I'll talk to you in a few years. ...Or maybe the next time I don't want to do homework.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Parenting: 5 Reasons Why You're Good Enough

I don't know about you, but I struggle constantly with not feeling like I'm, well...enough. Fit enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Kind enough. Funny enough. And especially when it comes to parenting, I just never feel quite good enough. There is always someone who is doing a much better job than I am. They are happier. They are better at discipline. Their kids are doing better in school.  Their kids are eating healthier. Their kids aren't throwing tantrums in the grocery store. Their kids are going to bed...ever. You get the point. We live in a culture where, more than ever before, we have instant access to everyone else's triumphs. Instant. And it is everywhere. Go ahead, try to avoid it. It can't be done. It used to be that it was only at the park, or at church, or at Mommy & Me gatherings that we would be subjected to everyone else's sundry parenting successes. Not anymore. Now it's on Facebook. And Instagram. And a million different blogs. And human interest stories. And please. PLEASE. Do not get me started on Pinterest.

It used to be that we would have to smile and grit our teeth and listen to our friends and neighbors talk about Chloe's citizenship award or how soon baby Noah started walking."I just turned around, and there he was. Walking past all of the childproofed cabinets right to my bag of organic dehydrated apple slices! I couldn't believe it. He's only 27 weeks old!!" Yes, that was bad enough. But now, now all we have to do is pick up our phone or turn on our tablet or start working on the computer and we are inundated with how much better at parenting everyone in the world is than we are. Now the voices aren't just patronizing and sickly sweet, now they are yelling and demanding our attention:

Hair. Hair?? Did I even brush my daughter's hair this morning before she went to school? Did I even see her this morning before she ran out the door?? Oh please don't let today be the day she disappears, I totally could NOT tell you what the last thing she was seen wearing was. A dress? Pants? A skirt?? Nope. No idea.

Dinner? Let's just not even go there. I think last night was fend-for-yourself-night at my house. Just like the night before. And probably tonight will be too. But I'm pretty sure we still have corn dogs. And maybe some Apple Jacks.

"LOOK AT MY KID'S FABULOUS SCIENCE PROJECT THAT HE DID ALL BY HIMSELF!" I don't know what the actual science project looked like. I didn't get that far before I stopped following that person.

Without rehashing any more of my own parental shortcomings, you get the point right? Today's world is full of ways for us to feel worse about ourselves. Just in case the old ways weren't enough. But I have learned some things in my almost 19 years of being a parent. One of those things is never buy Moon Sand. And another one of those things is: You Are Good Enough. You are. And let me tell you why.

#1. Because You Are Worried That You're Not Enough
You are, aren't you? Just a little bit of you wonders sometimes if you are helping, doing, and being enough. You compare yourself to other parents. And sometimes you think you fall short. Guess what? You don't. Just the fact that you are worried about what kind of parent you are means that you want to be better and do more. And that proves that you are good enough.

#2. Because You Are Doing Your Best
Your best is not someone else's best. It just isn't. And there is at least one thing that you do that your kids are convinced you do better than anyone else in the world. The way you hold them, the way you laugh, the way you make pancakes for dinner. And let's face it, maybe you don't have it in you to give 100% of yourself 100% of the time. It doesn't matter. The times when it counts, you DO give 100%. Because you're a parent. And that's what you do. And that makes you good enough.

#3. Because You Worry About Them
You worry that they are unhappy. You worry that they eat too much. You worry if they won't eat. You worry if they cry. You worry if they are disobedient. You worry if they are behind. You worry that you are ruining them with your (sometimes) epic parenting fails. You know what kind of parents worry about their kids? Parents who are good enough.

#4. Because They are Happy
They aren't always happy. And they aren't always happy with you (further proof that you're doing your job well.) Their clothes aren't always clean. Their rooms aren't always clean. They don't always like what you made for dinner. They don't always like your discipline. But they are happy. Even in the midst of terrible twos and adolescent angst, there are those moments when they are truly and genuinely happy. And when they are unhappy, you give them a safe place to be unhappy and to be and say how they feel. Do you know why? Because you are good enough.

#5. Because They Love You
You might embarass them. You might make rules they absolutely hate. You might miss an occasional game or concert or even their first step. But you are someone who won't judge them. You are someone they can trust. You are someone who loves them unconditionally. And they love you. You are good enough. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Many Times Can We Break Til We Shatter

We hear much about the resilient and indomitable human spirit. It is true. We as human beings are a truly durable and unshakable bunch. We can take a punch. And get back up again. It's in our nature. This doesn't mean that things don't break us. They do. Life is full of things that can rip at our psyche and all but destroy our spirit. But we heal. The human spirit is even more miraculous than the human body when comes to its healing abilities. Sometimes, it seems, too much so. Things that should break us completely and force us to be obliterated somehow mend. We break, we crack, we split almost in two, but we never quite reach the point of shattering. Somehow we always come back. Even when it seems like we shouldn't.

It has gotten me to wondering lately about the how and why of it all. We endure a lot, we human beings. Sometimes it seems we endure too much. Just thinking of some of the things we withstand is pretty overwhelming. Many of these brutal and unmerciful situations are just a natural part of life. We lose a loved one to death: a friend, a parent, a spouse, a child. We fail at things.We love someone who doesn't love us back. We lose our health. We age. Other conditions we do not all have to suffer, but far too many of us do. We are abused: physically, mentally, or emotionally. We are harassed, bullied, and berated. We get divorced and families are ripped apart. We are neglected and alone. People we love don't trust us, or treat us badly. We struggle: financially, physically, or psychologically. Some of these situations are not even always 100% negative. Like our children growing up. It's hard. We want this for them. It's what it supposed to happen. But it still cracks us, just a little bit. And probably them too.

I've been working on this post for a long time and since I started it, my dear brother-in-law lost his dad and just this week I received word that a cherished friend of mine, with two young children, lost her husband. All I can think is: It's too much. It is simply too much. We shouldn't be able to bear it. How do we get up and go on? Why? Why do we get up and go on? Why do we possess this ability to take such a beating without completely shattering? I consider myself to be a person of great faith, but sometimes even for me, it just seems to be too much.

But I believe there must be a reason we are built this way. A reason we heal and go on, even when it seems we shouldn't. Maybe it is to make us into the person we were meant to be. Maybe it is so that we can be there for friends and loved ones who are broken and need us to love and understand them. Maybe it is simply so that we know we can survive and go on. Maybe it's a combination of all of these things.

I'm no expert on the subject. I myself feel fractured in one way or another almost every day. But I haven't shattered. Not completely. Not yet. And perhaps that's the point. The knowing that we won't be annihilated. Th knowledge that all of us are a little bit broken. All of us sustain damage. But all of us keep pushing forward. Even when we sometimes wish it wasn't so. We are fragile. We are vulnerable. But we will not be shattered.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Parenting: The Cure for Vanity

Those of you who are parents know that it is not a role that is conducive to having high self esteem. In fact, the entire process of childbirth seems to be just a small foray into what life will be like when you are stripped entirely (and almost literally, in the instance of giving birth) of any and all shreds of dignity that you might have maintained in the previous months when you had another person grow inside of you and take over your body and life. I won't go into gory detail, but suffice it to say that it is very hard to preserve any sense of modesty or decorum while expelling another human being from inside of you. And after having 4 children in 4 different hospitals (none of which were teaching hospitals, incidentally) I find it a little hard to believe that there just happen to be students who want to crowd in and watch this "miracle" of birth. Every. Single. Time. I am convinced that it is just part of some diabolical plan to make sure that every last modicum of self-respect is gone by the time I leave the hospital. In preparation for what is to come.

And what is to come, you ask? What is it about parenthood that makes it hard to feel good about yourself? Well, let's start with what it does to you physically. Suffice it to say that I did not even know to appreciate my pre-child body. Dang. I wish I would have. Who knew? Who knew that back in my prior-to-childbearing years that I should have felt good about myself simply because I was not scarred with iridescent stretch marks and my belly button still looked like an actual belly button and not some mangled, disgusting, puckered....well, you get the picture. Granted, probably my mom knew. But I wouldn't have listened to her anyway.

Next, let's talk about emotional scarring. Take a heaping helping of lack of sleep, sprinkle in some I'm-doing-everything-wrong, blend in a teaspoon of I-have-boogers-in-my-hair-and-cheerios-in-my-bra, and top it off with just a smidgen of maniacal tantrums and you have the perfect recipe for I Am The Worst Parent Of All Time. And that is just the toddler years.

After the toddler years? After they start speaking and truly expressing their feelings? Oh, my friend. Oh, how it only goes downhill from there. And the older and more articulate they get, the worse the blow to your already threadbare self esteem. For instance, let me share with you just a sampling of the lovely sentiments my children have expressed to me recently:

"Why are you going to the gym, mom? You're already hot. I mean, you're not like 100% hot or anything, but maybe if you took care of that stuff on your stomach, then you would be...But, I mean, you're probably like 90% hot or something."

Yes, and by that stuff on my stomach do you mean the stretched out result of your gigantic head occupying the space that previously was reserved only for my undigested lunch??!? Bunch of ingrates, these kids. (I guess I should feel pretty pleased to be 90%. It could've been a lot worse.)

"No, I don't think your butt looks bad in that swimsuit. It just looks kinda mom-ish. Like a mom butt."

I don't know what a mom butt is. And I don't want to know. I really don't.

After a conversation between my older kids and their cousins about how none of them want to get old because elderly people don't look like themselves anymore:
"My mom's old. And she still mostly looks alright."

Thanks. Just thanks. You do know how to make a girl feel beautiful.

"Mom, this looks like a dress you would wear."
"Yeah, that's way cute! I totally would."
"No. I didn't say it was cute. I said you would wear it. You're just lucky dad can't see that well."

Um, no words. None.

So, I guess my point is that in addition to endless patience, the answer to every question under the sun, and a veritable toolbox of how to solve any and every toddler through adolescent problem, you must also have in your parental arsenal a thick skin. A very. Thick. Skin. Because there are days that your children will say and do things that will make you long for them to just scream that they hate you and you are the worst parent ever. At least that's a little less personal.

So why do it? Why bother? Why have children at all? Because they love you. And they need you. And there are those rare moments when you actually feel good about what you're doing. And the amazing children you are raising. The rest of the while? It's pretty thankless. Don't expect to be able to maintain much of a sense of self regard. It's not for the sensitive soul or faint of heart, that's for sure. And you can always take comfort in the fact that one day, their children will be doing the same thing to them. And you will be there to raise them back up and tell them they are wonderful. I do believe that is what is called the circle of life.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Ones Who Love Us Anyway

It's been a while since my last post. I'm not proud to admit it, but the simple truth is that sometimes in the battle of Me vs. Life I feel like I am reigning victorious. Other times I feel like I'm bloodied in the corner and there is not a coach out there that is going to talk me into get back into that ring. Not even Apollo Creed. I'll let you surmise what kind of summer I've been having.

That being said, there is a subject that has been weighing on my mind over the past few weeks. And some things just need to be said (written, know what I mean.) A couple months ago, I had the privilege of attending my grandfather's funeral. He had lived one of the fullest and most service-filled lives I have ever had the honor of being witness to. He had been sick over the past few years and been suffering immensely, as did those who spent their days taking care of him. This being the case, I did not expect to feel an inordinate amount of sadness at his passing. I was actually a little surprised as I sat in the service to find that I was unable to stem the unending tide of tears pouring down my face. I was a little bit ashamed of myself to think that I could be so selfish as to mourn him that deeply. Especially when I have a deep rooted faith that his spirit had not only gone on but was thriving elsewhere. It took me a while before I realized that the tears I was crying were actually tears of deep and heartfelt gratitude and not tears of sadness.

Let me backtrack just a little and say that my grandfather was not actually my grandfather. My maternal and paternal grandparents had all passed away by my 11th birthday. My grandpa was just a man, the parent of one of my dad's friends who "adopted" not just me, but all 4 of my younger siblings as well. He and his wonderful wife chose to nurture and love and adore all 5 of us and have been my grandparents for as long as I can remember. As I sat there in the church building that day listening to wonderful and funny stories about my grandpa's life, I was flooded with memories of his love for me. When we were little he and my grandma truly played the part of doting grandparents. They listened to our school accomplishments, patiently suffered through our piano recitals, sent us Christmas cards, invited us on summer vacations. Everything you would expect from a loving grandparent and more. And they were no less involved in our lives as we grew to adulthood. They made it a point to attend every baby blessing, birthday party, graduation and baptism that they possibly could. And all the while, THEY DIDN"T HAVE TO. They loved us by choice. They sacrificed their time and their energy loving us because they wanted to.

This has really gotten me thinking about all of those people in my life who love and endure me because they choose to. Husband, children, parents, siblings, cousins...these people are kinda stuck with me. Granted, they don't technically HAVE to love me either, but they do. Because they're family. And not to undervalue how grateful I am for their love and support. But there is something uniquely special  about those people who are in my life specifically because they WANT to be there. Those friends who listen to me whine and moan about my problems. Who instead of telling me to suck it up, offer their advice and their shoulder. Who know what a hot mess I really am and are not embarrassed to be associated with me. Who travel to be at my daughter's graduation, even when they have work and children and endless responsibilities of their own. Those wonderful people who I don't talk to daily but I know are in my corner. Who send me encouraging texts and messages, just because. Who take time out of their own busy lives to call occasionally just to check on me. Not because they have to. Because they want to.

I am thankful not just for these friends and co-workers and neighbors, but for the people who don't know me at all and choose just to be kind. The ones who see me fighting with a willful and mouthy 4 year old at the store who give me a sympathetic glance instead of a dirty look. The ones who smile understandingly from their car when I give them the I'm-so-sorry face and wave after embarrassingly almost drifting into their lane while yelling at my kids for the 947th time to put on their freaking seatbelts. The ones who hold the door open for me when they see my hands are full. The ones who I run into at the gym and the grocery store and the kids sports practices and dance lessons who ask me about how things are going in my life. And actually take the time to listen.

I will be the first to admit that I go far too many days without seeing and appreciating the miracles around me for what they are. But there is not a day that goes by that my heart is not bursting with gratitude for the people who choose to know me. And who love me anyway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Girl Look at That Body. I Work Out.

I love the gym. No, I'm serious. I really do. It gives me a much needed sanctuary from, well, life in general. Cable TV, cold water fountain, a bathroom that is always magically clean without me having to do it myself or threaten anyone else within an inch of their life if they don't start picking their %*#%@# towels off the *&#%*% floor. Also, there is always toilet paper. Always. And not just sitting on the floor or counter. It's actually ON THE ROLL. Every. Time. And even though the carpet at the gym is sometimes dirty, I can just look at it and shrug and be all like, "Whatever dude. Not my job." Oh the freedom. I am a little sad about the fact that the only offerings available in the Coke machine are water, Powerade, and Diet Crap, and there's no candy bar machine at all, but eh, what can you do? At least if I DO decide to buy some gross Diet Something or Other, there's no one around to backwash in it and I can drink the no calorie nastiness in relative peace & quiet.

I have found, though, that there are a few things about the gym that are not my favorite. Granted, none of those things are deal breakers. I mean, you heard how there is ALWAYS toilet paper in the bathroom, right?? But they are not my favorite. And I do so like to make lists. (In fact, if you were wondering, I am totally that person that makes lists of things that I already did just so I can feel good about crossing them off. But that's a blog post for another time.)

So here it is. The list of my Top 5 Things I Don't Love About the Gym. (Not to be confused with the Jim. Cavaziel that is. I love everything about him.)

#1. Mirrors.
I mean, really?? I avoid my reflection as often as possible. And that's on a normal day. When I'm showered and have my hair did and all. At the gym? First thing in the morning? With crusty sleep stuff still in my eyes and no make-up?? Um. Ew. Don't nobody wanna see that. Least of all me. Least of all in an entire wall covered top to bottom in reflections of me. So. Gross. But there's no escaping them. They're everywhere. I suppose the purpose of them is so that you can check your form or some such nonsense. I don't want to check my form. I mean, have you ever tried to do a dumbbell shrug without making a dreadful face? Go ahead, try. I dare you. It can't be done. I prefer living in the blissful ignorance of believing that I look just like something fresh off the pages of Shape magazine. (Not the cover, mind you. Even my imagination has limits.) But, no, no blissful ignorance for me. Just real life, sweaty face, greasy hair Cyndie staring back at me from 7 million mirrors. I hate her. She's the worst.

#2. People Who Are Stronger Than Me.
So, yes, pretty much everyone. That includes 12 year old boys and 70 year old women. Despite my goal of adding more weight lifting to my workout routine, I seem to have still failed to build any sort of strength. Any. Sort. It's actually quite depressing. And yes, I'll admit it, when I use the weight machines I totally move the pins up to a higher weight when I'm done. So it looks like I'm stronger than I am. Because the pathetic amount of weight I can actually lift is really quite embarrassing. And nobody seems to like to re-rack their free weights when they're done with them. So sometimes I have to skip a machine altogether. Cuz it's totally not worth lifting and carrying 90 lbs of weight just so I can do 25 calf raises. My calves look just fine. Stupid muscular people. The good news is that I never have to fight anyone for the 8 lb. dumbbells. Ever. Which brings me to my next item:

#3. Sharing.
Cyndie doesn't like to share. It's a sad, but completely true fact. Don't get me wrong, I don't really like being completely alone at the gym. I've watched far too many horror movies for that to be any fun. But I also don't like it when people are using the equipment that I had totally planned to use that day. For example, there is only 1 bike at my gym that I actually like to use. 1 out of probably 4 or 5 bikes that they have. I don't use it often and 98.8% of the time no one at all is using it. But the day that I decide that I want to use that bike, well, guess what? Yup. Someone is totally using it. And they're usually not even working out very hard. They're just sitting there, barely pedaling, flipping through the TV channels, snacking on beef jerky, not even breaking a sweat. What a waste. And don't even get me started on the muscle bound guys who casually throw 250 lbs. onto the Smith machine like it's no big deal when I already had it all set up and ready to go for squats with my 45 lbs. It's just mean. Don't they know that Thursday is my leg day?? Geez.

#4. Swim Trunks.
I know what you're thinking. Swim trunks? What do swim trunks have to do with the gym? Nothing, you would think. But you would be wrong. It's just another one of those pesky gender inequalities that guys can throw on anything. And I do mean anything and head out to the gym. They don't care if it matches. They don't care if there are holes in their shirts. They're guys. They can totally work out in swim trunks and black knee socks. What? What's wrong with that? Let me tell you what's wrong with that. It's simply not fair. Do you have any idea how much workout clothes for women cost? Um, like a million dollars. You want some Nike running pants? $50. You want a shirt that matches? That'll be another $50. Oh, you also need a coordinating sports bra? Be prepared to shell out another $35. At least. Those of you women who own workout clothing already know this sad fact. The rest of you. Yeah. It's totally true. I about had a heart attack when I first walked into a Sports Authority and saw the price tags on those babies. I mean I want to look decent at the gym, but not that badly. Danskin, you will do just fine. But you know what's even cheaper than Danskin? Yup. That's right. Swim trunks and black knee socks.

#5. Being Old.
Admittedly, not the gym's fault. That doesn't make it any less annoying. There's nothing like a buxom blonde co-ed running on the treadmill next to me at 8 mph with not even a drop of perspiration marring her lovely little face to make me question why I even bother. It's obviously not a race. Because if it was she would have passed my panting, sweating, 3-5 mph behind long ago. But no, instead there she is. Next to me the entire time. Rubbing in her fitness and youth without so much as a bead of sweat on her brow. I get it. You are young and beautiful and the world is at your feet. I'm fairly certain she doesn't actually need to work out at all. And even though she could get away with eating cheeseburgers and fries for every meal without putting on an ounce, I get the feeling that she subsists solely on flax seed and Special K bars. In fact, I am fairly certain that the only reason she comes to the gym at all is so she can relish in her health and energy and secretly mock the crazy old lady who can't even lift a decent amount of weight let alone run more than 2 miles without looking like she is going to die. Well played, buxom blonde, well played.

So there it is. My top 5 gym grievances. It truly is a small price to pay for one whole hour of solitary peace each day. And nary a towel on the bathroom floor. It's the closest thing to heaven that I have in my life. A sweaty and sometimes a grunt-filled heaven. But a heaven nonetheless.