Category Archives: midlife

Broken

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Broken

Sometimes you stumble your way through the dark on an unfamiliar path trying to  discern the next right step. In my experience, these paths are riddled with emotional land mines. You anticipate the boogeyman when he jumps out in front of you. When you hear the creepy music, you don’t have to turn your head to know someone is behind you. Then there’s the stuff that blindsides you and takes you to your knees, the unexpected hits you never saw coming. I’ve had a week of those.

The days are blurring together and feel oddly suspended as they do when things get awful. Some slow motion version of life settles in as you try to adjust to the new normal, which is anything but typical. On Wednesday, I went to visit my father in the hospital and they were talking about discharging him. Then on Thursday morning, he went into cardiac arrest and he’s been in a coma-like state ever since. The prognosis is grim and now we wait for things to change in some new direction. Waiting for milestone hours to pass; 24, 48, 72 and we continue to wait, and wait and the days feel like weeks and every so often the physical/mental/emotional exhaustion comes over you like a tidal wave. It feels a lot like drowning, minus the water. I’ve been dry drowning.

This situation is awful enough on it’s own and yet, there’s more. Five decades of an on again/off again father-daughter relationship, half siblings, a beloved twin who is far away, a history of family tragedies and what can I say, it’s complicated. I’m the oldest of seven, one of the two from the first disastrous marriage. The other siblings are from my father’s second marriage. His second wife died in a car accident in 2000. His youngest child died by suicide a handful of years ago. The pain this family has experienced is enormous and I feel like a ghoulish outsider with unfettered access.

As I’m getting older, friends and loved ones have lost parents. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for me when the time came. I no longer resent my father for what he did or didn’t do when I was a child and yet, we aren’t especially close. Not a conscious effort to stay separate, it just became easier to chose other priorities. I’ve also tried to insulate my children from the dysfunction of my childhood. There is a lot of my personal history that they don’t know yet. As they are getting older more is coming to the surface but not everything.

I’m a strong person, been through plenty of my own shit and always came out the other side on top. I’ve beaten odds that no one could’ve predicted. If younger me was a horse in a race, no one in their right mind would have bet on me and yet I placed. I found my way into the winner’s circle, against all odds. I thought I would be somewhat disconnected when dealing with my father’s mortality, I was wrong.

Yesterday I felt hallowed, a husk of a human who had their innards scraped out. An emptiness that was dark and consuming, a black hole from within. It took me by surprise and I had to yield to it. I could not leap through this particular ring of fire, I had to stand in front of the flames and watch it burn. Eventually I had to accept help and let my husband and kids join me at the hospital.

In the middle of my pain, I imagined myself as a plate made of fine china with an intricate pattern. Seemingly intact, functional and somewhat pleasing to behold. Upon further inspection a hairline crack is discovered, the kind that can cause the plate to break if it is not handled in a delicate manner. If you feel the edges on the backside the chips reveal themselves and you know this plate has been compromised. It makes me wonder if the damage is visible to an outsider. From a distance, it looks good but up close, you can see it’s damaged and on the verge of being broken.

 

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Writing Prompts

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Writing Prompts

When you feel vulnerable everything is a writing prompt. Sometimes the thoughts just swirl in my head, marinating until they become a somewhat tasty morsel that spills onto the screen. Not enough for a meal but, with any luck it leaves you hungry for more. Most times though, those prompts just wither on the mental vine. Here are some seeds that are lying on the bare ground, waiting for neglect or nurture to determine their fate.

Backstage Pass

My father is in the hospital again. He’s been in several times this year for various illnesses. We aren’t close and that’s not likely to change. He was out of my life from when I was 9 until sometime in my 30s. Too late for strangers with nothing in common to cling to – I say that with sadness, not hostility. We’ve both made attempts to bridge the enormous obvious gap, we just haven’t found the right the platform.

I find out about his health via group texts from his longtime partner. She’s devoted to him and very kind, which is comforting. It’s just awkward. The man had 7 kids from two marriages. I’m the first born but last in the pecking order. When I do get informed, it’s like having a backstage pass for an act you don’t know.

What’s Normal?

My kids recently went back to school and I feel myself being consumed by my own anxiety for them. I’m outing myself in the hopes that it will get me to ease up a bit. I have two teenagers and I can’t help myself, I think of what I was doing at their ages. Then I wonder, is it normal for parents to do this? If you’re a parent do you reflect on what you were doing when you were the same age as your child? Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question, I don’t know what’s normal.

For the Ladies

You ever get your period and think “Oh that makes sense” as you flashback to the night before when you ate half a chocolate cake and contemplated life with a new identity.

Hospice

A friend asked me how I deal with the mental mind f*ck of caring for people on hospice. This is what I wrote to him:

Hospice is a weird thing. I think what draws me in is the lack of bullsh*t. The small stuff and pettiness that most humans get tangled in tends to fade away when someone has a newfound awareness of how finite our time is here. I appreciate that level awareness and honesty and I get into a – do the next right thing modus operandi. It’s more difficult with people you know versus volunteering for strangers. I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing though, one of the benefits of a dysfunctional upbringing.

There is also a curiosity that pulls me in. I kind of want to know what it’s like at the end of life – I mean, we’re all going to die one day, yet people rarely discuss it. Or maybe my twisted brain thinks…if I am a witness and a helper for so many at the end of their lives, perhaps I’ll be granted a swift departure when my time comes. I don’t want to be subjected to weeks or months of Depends and really dry, chapped lips. So basically what I’m saying is….there is no way to delay the existential head f*ck, you just have to lean into that motherf*cker.

 

 

 

*Featured image used via agreement with 123rf.com image is Copyright of Sila Tiptanatoranin

 

It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere!

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It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere!

It’s Wine O’Clock somewhere…or maybe it’s Weed O’Clock, Sex O’Clock, Sugar O’Clock, or some other O’Clock I have not yet imagined. Our collective casualness with dependency is adorable isn’t it? I mean we all need a little somethin’ somethin’ to get through the day, right? I may ruffle some feathers and bunch some panties with this post.

Perhaps I’m sensitive to the topic…after all I was raised by an alcoholic mother (you may now insert all of your preconceived notions about me into your brain) and found myself in rehab at age 15 (insert more of those notions) and I’ve been sober ever since (perhaps that one was unexpected). I have a good grip on the subject of alcoholism, mostly through sober observation. I’m way past the zealot phase of recovery and I have many friends that are social drinkers. I have not been hiding in a sober closet for the last 35 years. That said the “Mommy Juice” culture is getting out of hand.

I recently got invited to a breakfast with other parents who plan to celebrate the first day of school by day drinking the minute their precious kids get on the bus. Mimosas at the country deli, won’t that be fun! Look spiked orange juice, so clever. The festivities start at 7:30am, I’ll pass. I hope they have a designated driver, Uber is scarce in these parts. I wonder if these parents will still be lit later that day, driving through car line which is a cluster f*ck without inebriated drivers.

Do your teens and tweens see these pro drinking posts? Are you buying them beer so you can be the cool parent? When is enough enough or perhaps too much…what example are you setting for formative minds? I know I sound like a cranky Puritan. Truth is I’ve joked about alcohol myself especially when asked why I don’t drink. “My gene pool is polluted” is one of my usual snarky responses. It sounds cooler than the real explanation – I made bad decisions and put myself and others in harm’s way when I drank. And I do have a sense of humor (pinky promise). A few weeks ago I got a good friend a “Shut Up Liver, You’re Fine!” t-shirt to celebrate her birthday. Hmm, I may be part of the problem.

I think my breaking point was the purse that markets itself as a wine pouch. Let’s all hold hands and recite the Serenity Prayer for this gem –

Wine Purses

If you need a purse to carry your medicine water,  perhaps things have gotten a tad out of hand. Look at it this way – substitute green beans for wine, does the behavior still make sense? Are you stashing green beans in different areas of your house for a quick bite when no one is looking? Are you stuffing your face with them in the parking lot before walking into the board meeting, the presentation, the PTA gathering? Are you disappointed when your friends decline green beans because they just can’t take another bite and they need to drive home? Have you recently eaten too many green beans at a public event and struggled the next day with a hangover and the shame of not knowing what happened? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem with green beans. Just some food for thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Through agreement with 123RF Limited

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Copyright : belchonock  (Follow)

 

 

Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

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Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

A recent Facebook post in a group for midlife women asked members to comment with their term for the phase in life between ages 45 and 55. For the record, the author of the post prefers midlife meltdown. Up to this point I hadn’t thought of anything original until I read the post and subsequent comments. I let it marinate.

First I reflected on this phase as a work in progress with more self acceptance than prior decades. Some members were elegant – metamorphosis, renewal and awakening were tossed out like flower petals on a soft meadow. One of my favorite responses was the “F*ck it phase”. I gave it some more thought and landed on the title of this post – “Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility”.

I recently turned 50 so I am in the sweet spot of the poster’s demographic. I find myself balancing opposite ends of the spectrum – acceptance/discontent, reclamation/ surrender, clumsiness/grace. In short, it’s a mixed bag. I am aware of my short comings, of the finite amount of time we all have and yet there is this spark, indeed a renewal of sorts.

In collective society I have become less visible. This happens to women as the radiance of youth is replaced by the fine lines of wisdom. Once the skin suit we inhabit becomes less appealing to the masses, we blend in until we are barely visible.

Here’s an example, our family used to frequent a local restaurant where they immediately recognized us and would (without asking) bring our favorite appetizers. It was our Italian version of Cheers (everyone knew our name). The same people that owned the restaurant also owned a pizzeria. I would stop in from time to time for take out. The owner rarely recognized me when I was by myself. In fact, it happened so often that he actually acknowledged the oversight. I suspect it happened because I wasn’t attractive to the point where I would stand out or unattractive enough to register in this man’s memory without my family to provide cues. I simply blended into the woodwork.

That never happened in my 20’s or 30’s. It’s a jagged pill to swallow especially if you relied on your looks in your youth. I was aware of the perks of being an attractive young woman but I never fully appreciated the power, I miss it.

Like a lot of women, I fell into a bit of a cliché. I was a upwardly mobile career girl who transitioned into a SAHM in my mid 30’s. When my kids were headed toward middle school the internal panic started.

1) What have I done?

You put your family first, not yourself. That bit about putting your oxygen mask on first in the event of an airplane emergency….you didn’t do that. Tsk, tsk, too late to dwell on it.

2) What will I do now?

Should I go back to school? I already have my BA…what industries are hiring? If I spend X amount on education how long will it take to recoup that and do I have time? Will I go back to school, incur debt and be unable to get a job? What contacts do I have from 2003?

This cycle of self-doubt and reflective reasoning is the stuff of insomnia and panic attacks. It’s painful and no one can walk you through it. People can make suggestions and offer guidance but it’s your brain on the hamster wheel at 3am.

3) Will anyone hire me now?

Maybe, maybe not. Another Facebook group of women were recently discussing ageism in job interviews. One women was considering dying her hair because she thought it would help her odds of getting hired. Others try cosmetic surgery, injectables and most shave decades of experience off their resumes to make the math more difficult for a potential employer. Ageism is real, combine that with a large gap of employment and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I volunteered for a local hospital for 10 years and could not even get an interview for a data entry job. Eventually I started my own business because it was that or retail.

Many of us wake up at some point and wonder all of the “what ifs” and decide some changes need to be made. I’ve noticed this in myself and others, there is a certain burst of energy and creativity that comes at midlife. Whether it’s writing, painting, sculpture or throwing yourself into a charitable cause or activism, ladies tend to get revved up in the middle. I don’t know if it springs from a new well or one that was previously blocked by fear and expectation. I suppose it doesn’t matter because I jumped in without knowing the answer. That has been the gift of this phase, the willingness to dive into previously uncharted waters.

 

 

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_yuliialypai’>yuliialypai / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Super Cringe

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Super Cringe

My alter ego has an alter ego. Stay with me here. I write under a pen name, so Bryce is an alter ego of sorts. The other day I thought perhaps I should have a character for my blog. Someone who visits from time to time with antics and foolishness to share. And then I thought:

If my alter ego wants an alter ego is that just multiple personality disorder? Asking for a friend (actually several friends…)

I posted that on Facebook and Twitter and to my surprise, no one had any solid advice for me (us, insert audible eye roll).

Left without supervision and zero guidance…I’ve decided screw it, let the alter ego’s alter ego be born. She shall have a name because – alter ego’s, alter ego is a terrible name. Too many words. Introducing (insert dramatic drum roll here)…(still drumming)….(just a smidge more drumming)…SUPER CRINGE.

Super Cringe is not your run of the mill heroine. There are no super powers to cast her for anything by Marvel. In fact, it’s her lack of anything spectacular that caused her existence. She leans into the ordinary.  A dorky, teen-embarrassing run-of-the-mill mom like so many that afflict our children. If you’ve raised humans you probably have some super cringe worthy stories of your own. Hell, even my dog is embarrassed by me sometimes. The husband just pretends he doesn’t know me in public.

Super Cringe was inspired by the fairly obnoxious text I got from my dear daughter a few nights ago. She was texting me on her way home from ski club. This is how it played out.

DD: Love u and it was fun. I went on a few black trails.

Me: Love u 2 my little bad@zz

DD: That was super cringe

And that is how Super Cringe was born, out of my child’s disdain for my choice of words. Stay tuned…visuals to follow.

 

Sketch drawn by the amazing Lisa McMillen of Cica Lisa Designs. Visit her website and prepare to be blown away. http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

 

It’s a Deathtrap

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It’s a Deathtrap

It’s been a rough few days. Late last week I had a physical and I walked out of there with the trifecta of future appointments – mammogram, treadmill stress test and a colonoscopy. I hit 50 hard last month and apparently 50 hits back. I also got some bad news about my cholesterol which is high and has to be monitored. I come from a family which has lots of heart disease. I left the doctors office in a mood that can be described as “we’re all going to die”.Then I went home and took care of people because that’s what moms do. Over the weekend I distracted myself by shopping for swimsuits online.

Getting packages in the mail usually comes with some level of anticipation, unless it’s swimwear then it’s dread. It started out innocently enough, I was preparing for a family trip and decided to get some swimwear. Now I wasn’t entirely naive about the process, I despise putting on a bathing suit. I hate it so much that I have avoided it all together for the past three years. My family is about to embark on a once in a lifetime trip and I refuse to let vanity and insecurity sideline me. I need to get over myself and squeeze into something that resembles swimwear, perhaps from the Amish line.

I did what modern women do and went shopping online. Let’s be honest for a minute, is there a fresher hell than trying on swimsuits in a department store dressing room?  No there isn’t (OK side burner war, childhood diseases, man buns, poorly dressed baby goats, misogamy, racism and all the crime in the world for a moment) bathing suit shopping is awful and is made worse by florescent lights and the knowledge that some store security guard is watching you. No thanks, I’ll pay for shipping on returns if I have to in order to avoid being burned into Edna’s memory of most ridiculous customers.

I was cautiously optimistic when I began. I wasn’t opting for the Brazilian thong with a bandeau top (wireless). Those days are behind me (*sniff*sniff*) I went straight to modest yet modern swim skirts and tankini tops. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a swim skirt I like and it actually looked kind of cute. I felt cautiously optimistic, thinking my biggest challenge was behind me (wink) and I went to search for a top.

I found the top from a different company. A plain, yet seemingly well designed tankini top in black, should work fine with the aforementioned cute skirt. I took it out of the bag, it doesn’t resemble a 15th century torture device, so I decided to try it on. OMFG this thing is the stuff of nightmares. During my first attempt I was spun into some weird web of clothing denial. I thought I must have done something wrong, this can’t be right. It was only half on, yet it took the skills of a disjointed acrobat to wiggle my way out of there.

I checked the size, listened for encroaching family members and dove in for round two. OH FFS are they kidding me? No, flippin’ way. I was determined and soldiered through and managed to get this tankini from hell on my body over most of the right parts. Thank G-d it didn’t look good, if it did I may have been tempted to keep it beyond all logic.

Fear started to creep in. You know how it is when you’re watching a scary movie and you hear those first high pitched piano notes…something awful is about to happen and you go into high alert. Is it hiding in the drapes, crouched down near the sofa, OMG he’s behind me, isn’t he!!! And I realize I need to get out of this despicable garment without destroying it. Fantasies of shredding it Hulk style were replaced by the need to develop an exit strategy.

I looked at myself in the full length mirror, took a deep breath and determined the best course of action. Getting this top over “the girls” was particularly challenging. I’m a C-cup so we aren’t talking porn star breasts or anything unusual. Visions of me twisting my upper body to release the twins seemed like a bad idea. I wondered how it was that Harry Houdini could escape shackles in a water tank under duress and I struggled to get out of a bathing suit. I opted for the top down method. I released myself from the straps and rolled it down to my waist and kept going until I was free. The entire task likely lasted under five minutes and felt like a lifetime. The search continues…

What’s in Your Wheelhouse?

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What’s in Your Wheelhouse?

Seems like everyone has a wheelhouse these days, a metaphor to describe their specific skill set. I hear the term from friends that are still slugging it out in corporate America. I used to have a wheelhouse filled with current technical skills, boundless energy and a can-do attitude. That was fourteen and a half years ago before I was laid off from my Project Manager position at a software firm (The Office Space movie really resonated with me). Those attributes have been replaced with an intense hatred of middle school car line, juggling of my family’s emotional, social & physical needs, my imagination’s ability to go DEFCON 3 if I can’t reach my kids and an abundance of resting bitch face. I’m running out of ducks (psst…spellcheck is a stupid duck).

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_hermandesign2015′>hermandesign2015 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Here’s a not-so-secret-secret, I’m nearing the mid century mark (audible gasp, I know I can’t believe it either). So I suppose it’s natural to take a moment and reflect on some shit stuff. I did the math and in dog years I’m coming up on the big 3-5-0…no wonder I’m tired.

As I’m sitting here trying to flesh out this post, I’m listening to my husband teach our daughter Algebra. I’d rather eat a flaming sword while my fingernails are pulled off with rusty pliers. I stopped helping my kids with homework somewhere around 5th grade. If anyone asks my reasoning is to “facilitate independence”, I think they’re on to me though. The truth is I can’t do half of it without screaming or crying, if only on the inside.

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They say (not sure who “they” are) with aging comes wisdom. Hmm, not sure about that one. I knew everything when I was 17, you couldn’t tell me otherwise. Now I hesitate a little more, consider the thoughts of others who may have a different point of view and sometimes I’m wrong. I try not to “jump to conclusions” (still with me Office Space fans) and I reserve the right to change my mind. Perhaps I’m maturing just a hair, must be the flair (sorry, apparently I have a theme now).

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I’ll tell you want else comes with this milestone birthday – yes and no. Yes to spending time, money and effort on the people, places and things that matter most. No to the activities that don’t bring joy or a sense of purpose. I recently resigned from a position on a non-profit. I’ll still help out, I just don’t want my name on the letterhead. My time suddenly seems more precious and I give careful consideration to how I spend it.

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What’s in your wheelhouse?

 

A Peek at Dementia

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A Peek at Dementia

Her mind is a jumble of thoughts that misfire and get hung up midway. She’ll start a task and forget what she was doing somewhere in the process. The other day I came in and she had all the ingredients spread out on the counter, she just didn’t have any idea how to put them together. She wanted to make a sandwich for her husband of 67 years. She’s probably made a thousand over the course of their marriage, this day the how-to’s of assembly escaped her.

She’s highly sensitive, aware of changes in the moods of those around her. Her feelings are easily hurt and she isn’t shy about expressing herself. I visit with her several times a week including one evening when the goal is to get her fed and dressed for bed. Getting dressed is a long process. It’s a series of repetitive steps that have to be done in a certain order. She can usually stay on task but there have been exceptions.

One day last week she insisted that she had to take her pants off over her sneakers. I had to explain why that would not work, she remained stubborn about it. Then it clicked for me, she must have been afraid of something. Fear is usually the root cause of her resistance. Earlier that week, her husband commented that he couldn’t tie her shoes any more, he was physically not able to do it. This is why she wanted to take her pants off over her sneakers, she was afraid of being shoe-less. Once I explained that I would put her sneakers back on, she complied.

She has dementia, a moderate case. The thing about dementia is that it only gets worse, never better. Sure there are days when she is more lucid but her baseline status will only descend from here. Any major change such as the death of her husband or a move at this stage will hasten the spiral and she’s one of the lucky ones.

Her family is engaged and loving. She sees a relative at least five times a week and speaks with them a minimum of three times a day for medication reminders. Companions like me visit her each weekday. She has a small army of compassionate caregivers and she still lives with her husband. There are millions of people facing this condition without these benefits, what will happen to them?

https://www.dementiasociety.org/

It’s estimated that 9 million Americans are living with some form of dementia. They don’t all have the financial and familial resources to remain safe and comfortable. Families are stretched thin trying to triage caregiving while managing their own lives including; children, careers, personal illnesses and a home.

https://www.alz.org/facts/

This situation will overwhelm our healthcare system within the next decade and beyond. Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, effects one in nine people after age 65 and that rate increases with age. People 85 and older have somewhere between a 30 – 50% chance of acquiring some form of dementia. This condition is impacting more people as life expectancy increases.

What can you do to prepare for this? I suggest having direct conversations with aging loved ones while they are well. Discuss specifics of financial resources, care preferences and have an Advanced Medical Directive and a Will. All adults should have these preferences documented.

https://www.medicinenet.com/advance_medical_directives/article.htm#advance_medical_directive_facts

If someone has been diagnosed, you may want to tour some facilities that specialize or have a wing dedicated to memory care. If you have a male loved that will need these services, get them on a waiting list as soon as it is reasonable. Many facilities have beds that are assigned male or female. Since women tend to outlive men, they have historically had more beds available to them. It can take years for a male patient to get into his desired facility due to a lack of available beds.

Many people opt to care for loved ones at home due to financial, emotional or other reasons. It’s wonderful if you can find a caregiver within the family. At some point that person will need assistance as well. AARP has put together a thoughtful list of resources for caregivers.

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/local/info-2017/important-resources-for-caregivers.html

To all the caregivers reading this, you are not alone. Please take a moment for yourself to find support. When you need help, ask for it from those that can assist. That may be an individual, an agency or a non-profit organization. When you don’t need help, prepare for when you do, your work is so important. Self-care is not indulgent, it is a necessity.

 

Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_victor69′>victor69 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

Slow Your Roll

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Slow Your Roll

Some observations from a recent road trip returning from the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio to Bucks County, Pennsylvania…

We left at the crack of 8am, 7:45 to be precise. We both carried an enormous amount of luggage to the car. We are “one trip” gals. You know the type, 12 bags of groceries in the family vehicle and determined to lug it all in with one trip. The husband and kids scatter like roaches when the lights come on whenever it’s time to unload the car.

We’ve been training for this for years. Last week I got eight bags in the house in one swoop. I’m not talking about those plastic bags that you wear up your forearm like the worst bracelets ever invented. These were fully loaded paper in plastic bags filled to the tippy top. The task would have been simpler if only I had remembered my reusable bags. Those things rarely get a glimpse of the world beyond the juice stained, tissue infested floorboard of my car. Naturally, the groceries were bagged in the same order that they will be unpacked because I’m domestic and sh*t. Anyhow, the combined 432 pounds of books we acquired did not alter our “one trip” course. I suspect we resembled Sherpas at the base of Mt Everest but no one seemed to notice.

We decided to just get up and go, hit the road early. No shower, no coffee, no breakfast, surely we will find something on the way. That was stupid. Our first round of disappointment was at an Ohio rest stop. We thought, “surely there will be coffee here”, nope. It was an impressive building from the outside looked like it had been built within this decade. Inside was a cavernous land of empty bathrooms, disappointment and broken coffee dreams. There were bathrooms and vending machines, that’s it. We hadn’t yet reached the – let’s see if there is vending machine coffee – phase of desperation so, we got back in the car, sans steamy nectar of the Gods.

I don’t know how many miles passed before we saw an exit sign that hinted at coffee. It felt like it took two days and we were still in Ohio. We decided to exit the highway and fetch a cup to go. I was drawn to the shiny building. It looked like a 50’s diner, a chrome and neon oasis, surely they will have coffee. They did indeed have coffee.

We waited anxiously at the cash register where we made and paid for our purchase. The place was a blur of breakfast activity, it was clear that we hit the rush hour. It’s fine we’ll just wait, how long could it be? After an eon our coffees arrived and then we were shooed to a side of the counter to deal with our coffee fixins. I can get by with no sugar, I can not adapt to no cream. Our request for cream was met with a handful of those little half and half cups. You know the ones, they have approximately three drops of some mysterious liquid that the lab has passed off as half and half (half and half of what exactly, I’m not sure).

So there we were at the counter, desperately opening the three drops full containers in a frenzy while being bumped into by waitresses hauling enormous breakfast trays. Those creamers require the dexterity of a skilled surgeon to open. It was not graceful or efficient but we persevered. It was clear that the five containers they gave us would not suffice, we needed more half and half. I spied a table with a little bowl overflowing with them. I was tempted to make a request but the occupants were deep in conversation and I didn’t want to disturb them. Eventually we flagged a waitress down and noticing our empties, she gave us a bucket full of creamers. We finally got out of there and it’s barely worth mentioning but…the coffee was not worth the wait.

We were back in the car with mediocre coffee in hand. It was another 40 minutes before we saw the green and white sign. We knew the coffee there would also be mediocre but it would be a level up from the swill we already purchased. This time we opted for the drive-thru. Since I don’t like the coffee at this particular chain, I usually get a chai tea latte. I was still somewhat under-caffeinated and glazed over from the hours of early morning driving and ordered a “chatte latte” which sadly, only exists in my sleepy-caffeine-deprived mind. My friend gave me a quizzical look and I corrected the order immediately. Then we went on a wild tangent and by the time I got to the window to pay for the order, I had laughter induced tears in my eyes. The young woman handing over the steaming beverages did not find us amusing. In her defense, if she had heard the fictitious story about the lumberjack and the negligee wearing giraffe, she may have at least smirked.

Back on the road and did I mention that I got a speeding ticket on our outbound journey? True story and dashboard Jesus was instrumental in negotiating a lesser fine (Thank You Jesus). Anyhow, that tempered my lead footed ways. My friend’s consistent “slow your roll” commentary also kept me in check. We kept driving, sharing bits and pieces of our lives with each other, some stories were a refresher on previous conversations. Other bits were long ago fragments of chapters in each of our stories that we simply hadn’t gotten to in past chats. Each story was told with frankness, without fear of judgement which truly defines this friendship. It is quite magical when that happens.

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I’m pretty sure this is the universal sign for “slow your roll”

In our last stop on our way home we filled up the gas tank and then opted to get a snack. We were six hours into the journey at this point and I stumbled upon the best snack food ever created. I sh*t you not. Werther’s Original Caramel Popcorn (Sea Salt & Pretzel) is a snack GAWD. I have been searching for this stuff ever since we returned. Local stores can’t keep it on the shelves. I may break down and buy it online because I can only find the plain caramel variety and that just isn’t getting the job done. If you want to follow me down this rabbit hole, check out the review I stumbled upon:

http://junkbanter.com/2016/09/20/review-werthers-original-caramel-popcorn-sea-salt-pretzel/

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99 varieties of caramel popcorn and Werther’s Original with Sea Salt & Pretzel ain’t one.

When we were an hour out from our destination I texted my husband, it went like this:

Me: I’ll be home around 5pm

Hubs: OK we have food.

My friend and I were both stumped by his text so we did what women do, we put it under the mental microscope for analysis. Did he think I would cook dinner? Is he saying don’t stop at the grocery store? He can’t possibly think I’ll cook dinner or food shop after a 10 hour drive…

The mystery was solved when I came home and saw that we did indeed have food. Turns out my father in law was in the mood to cook so there was a lasagna and stuffed eggplant for dinner. That was a nice surprise.

My advice for a successful road trip is simple:

  1. Pee before you leave
  2. Bring snacks
  3. Take Jesus with you
  4. A great friend makes the time and miles fly
  5. Slow your roll

 

 

Enough

Standard
Enough

It’s amazing how your experiences can come back to tap you on the shoulder (or give an unexpected punch in the gut) decades later. When your life’s foundation is built on a fault line, you never know when the next big earthquake will make it crumble. Hell, sometimes the aftershocks can take it down. Too much stress and the sturdy, seemingly indestructible structure can be fallen by a minor tremor. You never know when it will hit. It’s been anticipated for years, you know it will be catastrophic, you just haven’t nailed down the timing. This is the result of a traumatic childhood, a foundation built on chaos.

Raising kids is the most important work I’ve done and of course it’s the hardest. As a mother, I am all in with these children of mine. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now  and there are days when I still wish they came with a manual. I did not have a good childhood, I don’t come from good stock and I’ve been winging it the entire time. I’ve done pretty good so far. Both kids are on the honor roll, no one is in trouble with “the law” and they are generally good humans. That’s modest, they’re amazing humans, each in their own way. I’d love to parent brag here but I’ll respect their privacy instead.

There are times when I will reflect on what I was doing at their age, the contrast is startling. Sometimes I lose my patience over minor issues because I get stuck in the long ago realm of my youth and it decreases the length of my fuse. Most of the time I keep it together unless I sense entitlement and then I temporarily lose my cool. If I’ve gone too far, I apologize quickly and we move on.

There have been times when my husband and I disagree on things and he’ll inevitably say that I’m too sensitive. My usual course of action in a heated argument is to leave the room and cool off. I know all the rotten, hurtful things to say to someone to push them over the edge and I choose to disengage. I find it’s best for me to temporarily remove myself from the situation so things don’t spiral out of control. This is a point of frustration for him.

I laugh to myself a little when I hear myself described as too sensitive. I get upset if someone is harsh, I anticipate the feelings of other people and try not to step on them. Is this supposed to be an insult or an observation? The funny thing is I’m not overly sensitive in most areas of my life. There are times though when he’s right and I am too sensitive. The alternative for me is a complete shutdown, that’s the nuclear option.

There are days when it feels like my best efforts are not enough. I get up earlier than everyone in this house, I go to bed later, the hours in-between are primarily filled with doing things for them. Nothing exotic mind you, just the day to day work that no one appreciates until someone stops doing it. I spend the bulk of my hours shopping, cooking, running errands, doing laundry, driving kids and staying on top of the business of raising humans (the forms, the appointments, the scheduling, the shuttling, the social/emotional nuances). The invisible work of motherhood is my primary focus. I squeeze in my small business and writing on the side.

When someone complains that these best efforts of mine aren’t enough, I lose it. I’m so sick of the not enough message. Ladies we are bombarded with this message. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, young enough, smart enough, rich enough, sexy enough, good enough. Not good enough is constantly streaming like the news ticker on CNN or Fox – not good enough is messaged all day, every day. Well, I have had enough.