I Am Woman

There’s this guy who stands outside at parent walk-up at my son’s school. I do not know him. Every day when I walk up, he stares at me. I don’t mean lingering glance, I mean full-on staring at me like a I was prancing down the sidewalk with a singing kangaroo hanging out of my purse. And he does it every. single. day.

It happened last year, too. Never a “hello” from this guy or a smile or even a weak, “you look so familiar.” Nope. He just looks at me without blinking for an inordinately long amount of time. My kids have asked me who he is. I don’t have any idea, except that he is a grown man with apparent respect and boundary issues.

Now….normally I’m not a confrontational person. My father calls me “peace keeper”. I prefer to avoid arguments when possible. I try to model problem solving behaviors to my kids. I’m not violent. But this guy, this guy is stepping over a line and I think it’s because I am female and I am small and to this man, small female equals powerless. Voiceless.

It makes me angry. It makes me wish I was some secret super-ninja so I could just reach out and snap his arm in half and leave him in a heap by his truck.

The funny thing about my size is that – as I said to my friend today – I am not small on the inside. I am mighty, lionhearted, and full of righteous indignation. You will not make repeated attempts to humiliate me or back me into a corner and not receive commensurate response.

So one day, as I was walking towards my son, this man was walking the opposite direction (towards me), his gaze fixed on my face the entire time. I had had enough. I stopped, right in front of him, took off my sunglasses, and asked him loudly if he had a problem. Yep. Gangster style. Threw out my arms and said “do you have a problem?”

Actually now that I think about it, it was much more Jennifer Love Hewitt screaming, “What do you want from me?!?” than anything else.

The guy… a bit unsettled by my Moms in da Hood behavior… stopped, looked at the ground, muttered something, and then made a beeline for his vehicle. Since then, each afternoon at walk-up, he makes a concerted effort to look anywhere else but at me. There have been a handful of afternoons that I stare directly at his face, daring him to look at me. He doesn’t.

Victory? Maybe. Maybe he’s not a bad guy. Maybe he thinks I’m a bitch (I don’t care.) I think plenty of men don’t know how scary/creepy/intimidating they can be. Maybe he was clueless. Maybe he’s just rude. I don’t know.

What I do know – or hope – is that thanks to our brief exchange he won’t choose to look at a woman like she’s on the damn dinner menu just because she’s small, or attractive, or defenseless against it. He knows now that despite appearances, she might call him on his disgusting behavior. A lion may live within her.

(Hear me roar.)

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The Hard is What Makes it Great

Yes, I’m quoting Tom Hanks as Coach Jimmy Dugan in the classic film A League of Their Own. The entirety of the quote is thus:

“It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great.”

Now, Coach Jimmy was talking about baseball in this clip, but I think this sentiment can be applied to a lot of other things in life.  The movie itself is about half the Americans who were a part of what we now call the Greatest Generation.  The extraordinary women who held this country together during World War II.  Their husbands went away to fight, and these women put on their big girl britches and handled it. They worked in factories, some joined the armed forces themselves and yes, some played professional baseball.  We women are magnificent creatures: adaptive, nurturing, capable, with strength unexpected in common hours (to borrow from Thoreau).

Tonight – in the shower, of all places – I got to thinking more about this.  It stemmed from a conversation I had earlier today about respect, dignity, equality, and all the things going on in our country and our world today, and this quote is what came to mind.  Why?  Because I cannot think of a single hero, a single inspirational story, a single great achievement that happened without some pain or struggle or sacrifice.

When we talk about the greatest generation (my grandparents), we talk about their fearlessness.  Their work ethic, their grit.  Where do you think that came from? Put simply, they had hard lives.  Yes, they were happy and yes, they lived at quite an extraordinary time in America’s history, but they definitely carried much on their shoulders.  Many of them were mature as kids, holding jobs and carrying a workload at school that was greater than ours (much greater than that of our children). They didn’t have the technology we have or many of the creature comforts that have made us soft.  Seems to me there’s something to be said for adversity.  Friction. Failure.

Nowadays there are movements to stop bullying, which I believe in and am a part of.  There are movements to respect people’s feelings, and I also am fine with that.  Movements to keep people from saying things. Movements to keep people from being triggered.  I can’t help but wonder if we’re doing this all wrong.

Shrinking this down to include only my household, I think that in my efforts to provide my kids with a soft place to land, I may be inadvertently depriving them of their potential.  I think that I am part of a generation that may be working too hard to protect ourselves and each other from the very things that will make us – and them – great.  Perhaps our kids will live up exactly to the standards we set for them.  Perhaps that bar is getting lower and lower all the time.

Does that make sense?  Maybe not, but let’s follow the thread and unravel the sweater and see what’s left behind.  My dad said something to me today about his work environment being so different than it was even 15 years ago.  “What do you mean?”, I asked him.  “Well, nowadays, if you say something that even slightly comes off as harsh, you hurt someone’s feelings, they’ll just quit on ya.”  I am so surprised by this because Dad works in construction, which historically is a field chock-full of gruff guys who can take a bit of criticism.  What – if anything – does it say about society that a man can’t correct another man’s work for fear of hurting his feelings?  Are we at a point now that we cannot hear criticism or we do not wish to improve, or we shut down and quit a job each time a situation is uncomfortable? Is this what happens when every kid in a tournament receives a participation trophy? Is this what I create when I run to the school every time my kid gets picked on?

Further down the rabbit hole, I think about the stories I’ve read or heard about great women in history.  Strong women.  (Women in particular because that’s who I identify with.  Powerful, defiant, rebellious ones – well, for the same reason.)  Fiery. Fierce.  Independent. Defiant.  The world changers.  WHY were they so strong? HOW did they become so?  WHAT was so important to them that they were willing to risk their lives? WHY are we still talking about them today? Would we know their names at all if they hadn’t experienced some injustice that lit a fire within them to reshape their world?

Would ANY of these women have made history without first being told they couldn’t?

In a word… no.

I put it in perspective for myself and ask the same questions. Would I be me if I hadn’t been hurt before?  Would I feel so triumphant if I hadn’t had to figure out how to claw myself up from rock bottom?  Would I be so passionate if no one who spoke to me was ever allowed to hurt my feelings?  I think not.  Granted, a certain amount of fire is in my blood, and I was more or less “born this way”, but I don’t think I would be this version of me if I hadn’t had to go a few rounds in the ring.

I think that kids learn resilience from standing up. I remember some parts of my own childhood and the feeling of pride that swelled in me when I finally conquered something I had been working on for ages.  I don’t believe I would have felt that pride – or felt anything at all – if someone had done the hard work for me.   Now, I have this thought when I watch my own kids struggling.  Of course I want to run to them when they are frustrated about trying something for the twentieth time.  I want to reach down, swoop them up in my arms, complete the task for them and make it all better.  If I’m honest, though, that’s got nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.  I want to make ME feel better.  I want to soothe my OWN heartache.  I want to keep myself from hurting because when they are upset, of course I feel it.

I’ve resolved to hike up my boots and get the fuck over that.

You see, before they can stand, they have to be allowed to fall down.  We do them no favors by shielding them from ugly and uncomfortable parts of life.  In fact, we do them a great disservice.  We underestimate their capabilities when we don’t let them handle difficult tasks on their own.  They need to find their own voices, and then they need to figure out what they want to use those voices to say.  Without adversity, they cannot ever truly discover who they are and why they believe what they do.

Life is hard for all of us. It’s a struggle.  It is, and I know it is, and I am not making light of that or trying to minimize it in any way.  There are big hurdles for each of us, and each journey is different.  Divorce.  Death.  Sickness.  Pain.  Heartache.  I have been hurt a lot in my life, many times by people I love and trust.  That’s very hard to go through.  It’s hard to heal from.  Hard to talk about, and hard to forgive.  Hard to move forward, hard to grow, and hard not to get stuck in resentment or bitterness.  The hard, though, is part of the journey.  Without the trials, there couldn’t be triumph.  We cannot be victors if we are unwilling to step into the skirmish for fear of having our feelings hurt.

(I say this with love, as I am one of the MOST sensitive souls out here. I’m not advocating for rudeness, but I know that rude people exist. My kids will either crumble into dust at their first unpleasant conversation, or they will know how to handle it and feel secure in themselves.  I want them to be bold and confident and capable. That’s what I’m getting at with all this.)

I want my kids to know that life is good, that it’s full of love and light and good people and potential and promise.  There’s another side to that coin, though.  I also want them to know that life is grind and sweat and conflict and strife and it’s fucking hard.  I never want to see them hurt.  I do want to see them succeed – and I want to see fire in their eyes when they do.  I’d much rather have world-changers as kids than comfortable semi-adults who can’t handle confrontation.  It’s SUPPOSED to be hard.  After all, the hard is what makes it great.

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There’s no crying in construction

Hitchhikers

There was a meteor shower last night.

Did you see it?  Did you notice them?  Were you, like my family, standing outside, looking up, ignoring the icy cold in order *hopefully* catch a glimpse of something magical?

We stood in the parking lot, the four of us, looking up.  We laughed and talked and danced.  Yes, we danced to stay warm.  We counted twinkles, identified constellations, and hugged each other while giggling about the possibility that if we kept our gaze up long enough, our necks might get stuck this way.

We connected and played and enjoyed each other, imagining dragons as we exhaled smoky white clouds of breath.  We talked about distant planets and galaxies and the undiscovered life that might be staring up at us at the same time.  There were jokes about aliens, stories of great Roman warriors who now live among the stars, and scientific questions about just what those stars are made of and why they appear to twinkle.

I saw one!  I was looking in the right  place at the right time, and I saw a star go from here to there, ever so quickly and quietly.  Before I could point it out to anyone, it was gone.  I mumbled a belated wish to the heavens, but the truth is that in that moment, with my tribe, I was already living my best life. What else could I ask for?

The Gemenid meteor shower came and went, and we lugged our chilly bodies up the stairs to our front door and into the warm, welcoming space we currently call home. Each of us tiptoed like baby birds to our respective nests, and without any more mention of stars, prepared for bedtime.

As I lie in bed waiting for sleep to come, I realized the depth and importance of what felt in the moment like goofiness…

Moments like this are what make childhoods worth reminiscing on.  Moments like this become memories that will amuse us, comfort us, remind us for the rest of our lives of the happy, silly time we had “that night”, looking up at the sky, cracking up at what the neighbors must be thinking about us, musing that we might be waiting for our mother-ship to come and whisk us away to the next universe. (Did we bring towels?)

Yes, the stars showed up and twinkled brightly for us, but it was we who brought magic to the night.

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X-Ray Vision

My son sprained his ankle yesterday at school.  He didn’t tell anyone and the teacher didn’t see, so no one called me.  When he got home, he told me all about his day but he didn’t mention his injury.  In the evening, when he was winding down, he finally mentioned his foot pain.  After some interrogation I got the story and proceeded to perform Mommy Triage.  Everything seemed ok, just a bit swollen, so I gave him Motrin and an ice pack.

Everything was fine.

Until.

An hour or so later, my son walked over to me and began to cry, almost inconsolably.  He was cold, he said.  So cold it hurt and he couldn’t get warm. I took his temperature, expecting a fever, but what I saw was the opposite.  His temperature was dropping.  His skin was cold and clammy to the touch.  I carried him, still crying, back to his bed.

As a mom I feel like I’m constantly walking a line between not reacting ENOUGH and TOTALLY FREAKING OUT.  There is not much in between for me, unfortunately for my calm, collected, level-headed husband.  Husband, of course, thought our son was overreacting, but I had a feeling he was telling the truth.  His tears, hot and streaming down his face, were real.  The fear on his face was real.

Externally, I tried to comfort him by saying things like “It’s going to be OK”.  Internally, I was making a list of who to call, what to ask, and what to pack for the hospital.  I called my mom, who is a nurse, and with her guiding me, checked his pulse, his temperature, examined his body for bruising, and put a heating pad in his bed to help him get warm.  After watching a couple of episodes of Transformers on Netflix, he fell asleep. I took out the heating pad and left the room, still feeling some anxiety in my gut.

I checked on Emmett every two hours until the morning, taking his temperature, feeling his skin, and watching him breathe.  I felt very strongly that he should get x-rays, since he just sprained this same ankle a month or so ago.

Early this morning we arrived at the Pediatric ER. The staff was courteous, if a bit incredulous that I wanted x-rays on what was obviously a sprain.

Fast forward to lunch time, and my sweet boy is in a splint.  He has a distal fracture of the fibula that, due to the location of the break, did not present as such.  The break is on the growth plate, which means we will see an orthopedic doctor next week to discuss next steps.  His “just a sprain” turned out to be a broken leg.

[On the bright side, his cast is red and festive.]

This was a sneaky break.  A painless fracture.  There is internal damage on a pretty important part of the body.  Fluid has pooled in his ankle and heel. The fracture wasn’t visible, so no one I talked to believed it was there. Only after looking inside did they realize how seriously he was hurt.

Considering this, I am reminded to be more conscious of others.  What I can see with my eyes doesn’t often betray what’s going on underneath.  A person may look like they have it all together when they are crumbling on the inside. They may not look to me like someone I could befriend, when we actually have a lot in common.  NOTHING is  ever what it seems on the surface. While I don’t have X-Ray vision, I do have opportunity to dig deeper. I have an obligation to look deeper.  To investigate.  To find out what’s going on in the heart, the mind, and the spirit.

Finding out about an injury is the first step to healing.  Knowing a person, really understanding them takes time, but it is the first step to helping them heal and grow.  Stepping out of comfort zones, crossing invisible lines we’ve drawn for ourselves, choosing to let go of old beliefs in order to embrace new friends.  These can only lead to good things – things like love, peace, and community.

I am grateful for this awareness, particularly at this time of year.

This holiday season, and always, may you see others –  and may you be seen – for the magical, powerful, gorgeous creature that you (we, they) truly are.

Star’s Hollow Gazing

To make the time go faster, I have been watching Gilmore Girls on my phone while I work out and it’s delightful.  Like any true GG fan, I’ve already seen the series a number of times, but that doesn’t subtract from its charm.

I didn’t like the reboot episodes or mini-series, or whatever it was officially titled.  It was too political and seemed to really strain for jokes where in the original they came fast and easy.  I’m also a fan of Logan, who in real life I’d probably think was a total tool, but I’m allowed to like him because this is make-believe.  I love the original show, all the quirky and lovable characters, the speedy dialogue and especially the obscure pop culture references.  I’ve actually learned about a lot of random things watching the show, including Pol pot, Groucho Marx, and coffee (which I don’t drink but I do like to smell).

So right now I’m watching the episodes where Luke and Lorelai dated, then broke up, and the town had pink and blue ribbons and yada yada.  There’s still some awkwardness between them and Lorelai is currently getting her coffee at Weston’s and Suki is gearing up for maternity leave from the Inn and everything is chaotic and yet somehow, in the midst of the chaos, there’s a pleasant, familiar charm.  There’s a knowing that everything is going to work out like it should.

That’s my life right now.

Everything is up in the air, or rather, all the things I’ve recently thrown in the air are orbiting, and it all feels mixed up and crazy and uncertain and yet, I’m standing here, sitting here, sleeping here in the midst of it with a deep knowing that it’s not just going to be ok, it’s going to be brilliant, and I’m not just happy, I’m inching closer and closer to that deeper knowing that comes from within, that everything is exactly as it should be.

So much of my investment in Gilmore Girls has to do with whether the characters do what I think they should do (or what choices I would make if I were in their shoes).  Predictably, I yell at the television a lot.  But there are those times when the stars align in Stars Hollow and I feel it in my gut.

So much of my own life has to do with my choices, analyzing them, questioning them, garnering feedback on what was right or wrong or stupid or perfectly planned.  Predictably, I beat myself up a lot.  But there are those times when the stars align in my life and I can feel it in my gut and my spirit.

NOW is one of those times and this week I’ve experienced ALL the emotions.  Fear, anxiety, frustration, outrage, relief, contentment, joy, hope, optimism, grief, determination and so on.  I am so excited to see where life will takes me.  I am letting go of negative things and trying new things with gusto.  Hopefully the next steps for me won’t be years of silence followed by a lackluster Netflix miniseries, but if that happens, I promise to include the entire original cast, plus some interesting cameos, fast talking and a satisfying conclusion.  Much like the original Gilmore Girls, which I’m on my way to watch.  Again.

 

 

 

Brave Little Heart

Sitting cross-legged in my bed tonight, I’m staring at my computer screen while my 7 year old is sleeps right next to me.  This last week he’s had trouble sleeping in his own bed, which is on the other side of our apartment.  I’m not sure what’s causing his dis-ease, I just know I’m doing my best to help him find peaceful rest and security.  If I had to guess, I’d say there are two things on his mind:

  1. A scary cartoon he watched without permission last week.  This I take full responsibility for, I was distracted and didn’t realize he had floated from something authorized to something that might frighten him.
  2. Loneliness.  He was an only child for 6 years before Kid 2 came along, and it’s tough being the Big Brother.  There are times he feels (and is) brushed aside a bit because baby screams are priority.  He misses his time with his Daddy and me.  Exacerbating this, his room is clear on the other side of the apartment from ours, so I’d imagine it feels a little uncomfortable for him to make the long trek over there, be tucked in and kissed goodnight, and then watch the rest of the family go back to the other side of the living space.

I am not an expert Mommy.  I do not always get it right. In fact, I screw up on the daily.  It does not feel good, but I do the best I can to keep moving forward. To be totally honest most of the time I feel like a trapeze artist who is working without a net.  My parents didn’t teach me how to parent (which is a blog series for another day).  Basically what I say, how I act, what I’m aware of, it’s all guesswork.  Every bit of it of every decision I make comes down to equal parts research (thanks, internet and Mom Bloggers), what I imagine I would want or need emotionally if I were in the situation as a 7 year old, and blindly attempting to calculate the most logical answer to whatever scenario we are currently knee-deep in.

All of that said, I do have compassion in spades and with a sensitive child like mine, it’s basically my super power.  In this tender moment between my son and I, a question formed in my mind:  What is courage?

The word courage brings to mind many different images, from soldiers fighting in battle, to patients who battle diseases like cancer, all the way to Mel Gibson’s blue-painted face in the movie Braveheart, in which he portrayed the great warrior and freedom fighter William Wallace, who was willing to give his life for his ideals and his people.

What if courage manifests in other ways?  I mean, what does courage look like to a 7 year old?  Well, for a child this age, courage might look something like jumping off the monkey bars, or standing up to a friend who is being a bully.  Maybe, though, courage is having the guts to verbalize fear and ask for help when you can’t sleep and you’ve tried thinking positive thoughts and now you really don’t know what to do.  Maybe courage is walking out of the room and risking chastisement in order to escape a yucky situation.

Yep, I think for my boy to pour out his heart to us and then ask to not be left alone tonight took some serious guts.  I mean, let’s be honest, many of us adults have trouble doing this!  I’m proud of him for speaking up.

So on nights like tonight, when it’s been a long day and we all just want rest and the dishes can wait because my hip is hurting and I still have an article to write, when my husband texts me from the living room to say “he is out of bed again and refusing to go back”, I have to get this right.  I have to match this courage with benevolence.

This consideration – the idea that kids are people, too – is something I think about fairly often in my job as Mommy, mainly because it’s not something I was given as a child.  On one hand, I don’t want my son to think he’s too delicate to face minor challenges.  On the other hand, I refuse to invalidate his feelings just because he’s 7.  They’re his feelings, and they are real to him.

I walk quietly into the living room, around the sleeping baby, and take my oldest boy’s hand.  We walk to his bed, where I plop down cross-legged and begin to investigate (as moms do).  He is in tears before I can ask the first question, so I change tactics and just hold him for a while.  A few moments later, I try again.  He says he’s not sure what’s wrong, but he doesn’t want to sleep by himself tonight.  “That’s ok”, I say without hesitation, “you don’t have to”.  I continue to speak life to his little spirit, saying what I believe are helpful statements like, “it’s alright to feel afraid” and “you are safe here”.  I don’t know if this is right, but I’m trying my best, against the loud sighs coming from my husband, who has been working to keep his annoyance hidden while we get this sorted out.

((Side note: My husband is not a man who thinks guys have to be “macho”.  Thank goodness, he doesn’t say things like “boys don’t cry”.  He is, however, a man who works very long hours at a demanding job and greatly values his rest time, so the quicker this gets resolved, the better.))

We arrive at the bed that my son and I will now share this evening, him promptly crawling beneath the covers and me grappling with the idea of being kicked, punched, and snored at all night.  I know this is right, I tell my husband.  I know that when I was a child and I was afraid, all I wanted was for someone to tell me I was safe.  I wanted someone to say “you don’t have to be alone”, someone to validate my feelings and not force me to lie in bed, terrified of whatever thought was tormenting me at the time.  Being a kid is tough enough without having your protectors leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable.

When my son thinks back over his life, and when he remembers our relationship and what kind of mom I was, so much of it won’t matter.  It won’t matter what we had for dinner tonight, but it will matter that I cooked and we all sat at the table and talked and laughed and connected.  It won’t matter what kind of car I drove, as much as it will matter that I was there every afternoon after school, happy to see him.  It won’t matter one bit that this apartment is not always clean and sometimes (ok, at ALL times) there are clothes and toys strewn about, but it will matter that this place felt like home to him.  It will matter that he felt safe here. It will matter that he had (and for as long as I’m living, he will have) a place he can go and just shake the world off.  A place where he doesn’t have to live up to anything, he never needs to feel embarrassed, a place where he’s not pressured to fit into someone else’s idea of who he should be or what he should think or feel.  It will matter that he didn’t have to question whether he was part of our tribe.

Deep in the depths of my soul, I want that.  As a mother, it is what I strive for above anything else.

Again, I ask: What is courage?  Courage is the soldier, the cancer patient, and William Wallace.  Yes, all those people are brave, possibly beyond measure.  But in MY life, in MY circumstance, what is courage?  For a mom like me, courage is the willingness to give my boy what his soul thirsts for, even if no one else understands it.  Courage is parenting him and him only, without stopping to think about what other moms (even my own) might think.  Courage is stepping away from traditional beliefs and from how I was raised in order to do it better, in order to raise a whole individual, fully functional and free from emotional baggage.

So tonight, clacking away at my old laptop with my firstborn snoring next to me, I rejoice in this budding courage – his and mine – and in the knowing that this time, I got it right.

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My Gentle Warrior

Just Another Storm

All that panicking over Hurricane Irma was for nothing, folks.  We have lots of water to drink, which won’t be a problem, and BOY am I glad we didn’t buy anything else in bulk.  Thankfully we never even lost power.  That said, being stuck inside with hubs and kids for a couple of days, I was probably more in danger of losing my sanity.

Menu:  Vegan-ize all the things!  After my second bout of stomach flu in about a month (I know, right?!) I decided to go into “Immunity Improvement Mode” and eat all the fruits and veggies I could get my hands on.  I generally feel better when I cut out meat, which I do a few times per year, sometimes for weeks and sometimes as longs as 6 months.  Normally I do it as a cleanse or as a way to raise my energy and vibration.  Try it, it works!  Even the mood is lifted, which I think has something to do with the hormones in our food and the emotions of the animals before and during their slaughter.  I know what you’re thinking and yes, I’m basically the Mister Wizard of nurition.  Sha-zam!  [All of that said, I’m really not promoting one way of eating or lifestyle over another and I don’t call myself vegan at any time because it’s offensive to people who actually live it 100%.]

Music:  Tchaikovsky!  Particularly the Sleeping Beauty Ballet.  If you’ve never heard or seen it, that’s basically a crime against humanity and your parent and/or guardian should be punished.  Allow me to rectify this situation:

Also, I learned this week that the song in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, when Aurora is singing in the woods, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…” is from Tchaikovsky’s Ballet.  Isn’t that cool?  Yes it is.

Travel:  The Great Wall of China has just been added to the list.  As I type this, though, I’m reminded how badly I’d like to go and see Hadrian’s Wall, which stretches across parts of Ireland and England and has great historical significance as well.  It’s also the wall seen in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.  Hmm.  Which Wall?  I guess it depends on where Kevin Costner is at the time?

 

Gym Rat:  I took a break this week and did mostly yoga and sleep. It was glorious.

Soul: With Hurricane Irma being in the forefront of everyone’s minds this week, I wondered (out loud) whether in times of crisis people are more or less in tune with each others needs.  I think both are true. Some of us are natural caregivers, so when disaster strikes we are even more empathic than usual.  Others of us are selfish, and panic amplifies that selfishness to a degree that makes it difficult for us to even see other people.  Just my opinion, though.

Dreams:  Nothing I’d like to share this week.

Photographing:  Also nothing to share.  (What? We were prepping for a storm!)

Movies and TV:  Law and Order: SVU and all the marathons on all the channels.  What can I say? I love it.

Library:  Aside from GQ magazine, not much.  The current issue has an interesting interview with Steven Soderbergh and a pretty good profile on Robert Pattinson.  Both of them are pretty talented and I enjoyed reading.

Tech: Two new apps this week: Stone, which is fascinating and wonderful and very, very useful if you are into and own a lot of gemstones (which I do).  Stone is a user-friendly guide to gemstones, with photos, historical factoids, and what each gem can be used for.  The other is Golden Thread Tarot.  It’s a fun digital tarot deck that does much more than just give general readings.  It explains each card and even allows the user to log and journal about cards and readings.  I don’t know anything about tarot, and I like being able to choose emotions to go with my daily card, like “hope” or “frustration” and knowing I can later search for cards or readings by emotion.

H.A.P.P.Y.

Summer is winding down, and Fall is on the way!  I’m completely indifferent to Pumpkin Spice, but so excited about the cooler (less humid) weather.  Here’s what’s going on with me this week:

Menu –  Semi-homemade chicken salad.  I use a rotisserie chicken from Fresh Market or Publix, shred the meat with a fork.  Add mayo (Duke’s, obviously), mustard, chopped spinach and onion.  My secret ingredient?  A little pickle juice and some chopped up hamburger dill chips.  Eaten over some blue corn chips, it’s currently my favorite thing.

Tunes – Heard a new song by Jack Garratt called Water, and it took my breath away.  The Revivalists, who I love, are coming to the Tabernacle in Atlanta and I’m really hoping to get to this show!

Wanderlust – Disney is almost paid for!  I’ve moved on to buying our shirts and silly fun things for the trip.  Next is the beach, hopefully Gulf Shores, before it gets too cold.  In the meantime, we’ve been going to Callaway for day trips with the kids, and it’s a terrific way to get the beach vibes without all the time in the car and other hassle.

**Shopping** – I don’t normally include news about purchases here, but I bought some rad new workout gear at Target.  I bought cute leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top, all for about $30.  They have an amazing clearance going on right now as Summer apparel gives way to chunky sweaters and pumpkin everything.

Fitness – I’ve been reading about Buti Yoga, and there’s a local gym that offers free classes on certain Saturdays so I’m talking myself into trying it.  According to MapMyRun I’ve run about 80 miles since I started running outside, which is GREAT.  I know I have a long way to go, but 80 miles is 8,000 calories and lots and lots of power gains in my legs!  I feel good about it.

Spiritual – Everything is circular, not linear.  I keep thinking about the phrase “Everything comes full circle”.   I have believed for a long time, and still believe, that all things are connected, but now I am starting to see that the connections tend to be circular, in that our understanding of them has a beginning (confusion/noticing/wonder), a middle (generally when something happens again, or we experience deja vu), and and end (light-bulb moment, connection is made, we see the result).

Dreams – My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Decker, was a guidance counselor and he hugged me and talked to me about what was bothering me.  Rather benign dream, but nice to see he’s doing well.

Photos – Aside from kids and beach, mostly horoscope screenshots. Nothing new here.

TV and Film – To The Bone on Netflix.  SEE IT.  SEE IT NOW.  Also lots of Chopped on Food Network, Cooks vs. Cons, and Beat Bobby Flay.  What can I say, I like food.

Between the Pages – Still nothing. I’m in desperate need of a new good book.

Tech – Perusing podcasts this week, and learning to use SnapChat to actually chat instead of just playing with the filters.  I both like and dislike that the conversation disappears so quickly.  I am considering buying a MacBook, but I have always been a computer user so I’m afraid I’ll hate it.  Thoughts?

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H.A.P.P.Y. family

 

Sticky Fingers, Sting Rays, and Strides

[Chattanooga Recap]

My family and I (minus the tiniest guy) went to Chattanooga for the weekend, not knowing what to expect, but full of excitement.  We all enjoy an adventure and I have a serious inexplicable need to see and touch every part of this country and other countries.  I would like to put my two (bare) feet on the ground in every city in every country on Earth, if I could.  I am comfortable at home, but I have a nomad’s heart.

Word to the wise: A trip to the mountains – any mountains – is refreshing to the spirit.  If you’ve ever felt like your soul needs to take a good, long, tingly fresh breath, the mountains are the place for you.  If you don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo, well quite frankly, Chattanooga may still be the place for you.  After all, some things are true whether you believe them or not.  *wink, wink*

The drive from our house to the Noog (as some of the locals call it) was an easy, painless, traffic-free 5 hours.  I love a good road trip and I always like driving through Atlanta and daydreaming about the people who live and work in the beautiful buildings there.  (I see you, Tyler Perry.)  We arrived and met up with my step-dad, and then promptly drove over to see Mom at her wordplace.  Now, I’m going to keep this place anonymous in order to protect her, but we have this running joke that she actually works at a CIA Front Operation (ala Sydney Bristow in Alias) because there is no way any workplace can be this wonderful.  It’s a beautiful glass building that sits on a cliff overlooking the river, complete with coffee shop and neatly manicured courtyard including infinity waterfalls, where she’s encouraged to take yoga classes ON THE CLOCK because wellness matters.  I mean… WHAT?!  This alone is reason to move to Chattanooga.  We took a tour of the building and I tried to get the elevator to go to the “bottom” floor, but it wouldn’t. Probably because I don’t have the security clearance and wasn’t willing to do a retina scan.

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Allow me to inquire about your health insurance.

Since our trip was just for the weekend, we had to try and squeeze a lot of activity into just a few hours.  We were up to the challenge, and we started with Rock City on Friday Night.  I have been to Rock City once, but it doesn’t count, because it was the middle of winter and I didn’t get out of the car.  My 7 year old son has been once before, so he was my official guide.  Rock City is one of the most well-known attractions in Chattanooga, and I recommend it.  Because we arrived somewhat late in the evening, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was great because we could wander and chat and it felt very relaxed.  There’s a lot of walking through beautiful foliage and ancient rock formations,  and at the top of Lookout Mountain, you can “See 7 States”, which is really rad.  There are garden gnomes all over the place and a rickety bridge that unfortunately doesn’t come with an alternate route.  I felt a little like Indiana Jones, if Indiana Jones was a complete coward.

(At the end there’s a small gift shop that has some really kitschy gifts.  I chose an agate slice to use as a coaster on my writing desk, and some small vials of blood stone and citrine, which I’m very excited about.)

Saturday morning started early with a 6:30 am wake-up to run in the city.  I had planned to go alone and use my MapMyRun app, but Mom wanted to run too, so my step-dad drove us over to the Walnut Street Bridge and off we went.  Firstly, the weather was fantastic!  We started just before sunrise, and I tried to take some photos of what I was seeing but the photos don’t do it justice at all.  It was cool, not humid at all (a big change from home), clouds hovered around the mountains and there was a nice breeze.  Ideal running conditions.  Walnut Bridge itself is fun to run, it’s made of wood and forgiving on the joints and it’s over half a mile long.  My legs felt fresh and breathing was easy.  Excellent way to start the day, and running is a wonderful and underrated way to explore a new city.  We ran through the Bluff View Art District and Coolidge Park, saw several interesting works of art, and smelled tons of baked goods being prepared for the day.  The run was so good, we repeated it on Sunday morning!

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Panorama at Sunrise, Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga (photo: me)
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Sunrise at Bluff View Art District (photo:me)

That brings me to two other great things about Chattanooga:  The food and the architecture!  The amount of coffee shops and bakeries here is mind-blowing and extremely pleasing to the fat girl inside me.  I’m sure I could eat my weight in delectables at Rembrandt’s Coffee. (If you’re ever there, try the Nutella Macaroons!) Many of the buildings in C-town have a German feel to them. I lovingly refer to them as gingerbread houses.  My husband lived in Germany for several years as a kid, so I was particularly excited for him to have the opportunity to see something familiar and tied to happy memories.

Beyond patisseries, there are LOTS of places to eat in Downtown Chattanooga (we mostly stayed around the downtown area for this trip).  We chose to eat at Sticky Fingers BBQ, and it was a magnificent choice, if I do say so myself.  Here in Georgia we use Sticky Fingers sauce and until we drove past the building, I didn’t realize they even had restaurants.  I chose a sampler plate that included a pulled pork sandwich, ribs with sauce (you can also choose them dry), veggies, and sweet potato soufflé that will make you say Hallelujah.  The food was satisfying, the ribs in particular were very well cooked – tender and flavorful – and the sweet potatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had (which is saying a lot, given my affection for my aunt’s Senator Russell potatoes) and our server was very friendly.  I can’t wait to go back and have more ribs.

After our exhilarating run, we headed over to the Tennessee Aquarium.  For my son, the Otter Whisperer, this is a big deal.  We arrived to see that the Saturday Market was going on right outside, so that was fun.  We shopped and met local artisans and crafters and I was reminded that we humans are creative.  We are wildly imaginative and talented, and I’m proud of us.  High five, homo sapiens!  Inside, the aquarium was a little crowded but the place is huge so the crowd moved freely.  There are escalators to the different floors, which is nice, and the air was on “Arctic” setting, which after standing outside in the sun for a while was a welcome break.  Sadly, the otters didn’t feel like playing, but we did see penguins and the gator feeding show, and I pet something!  I honestly do not remember WHAT it was, probably because I was terrified, but on coaching from my son I put my fingers in the water and touched some kind of gross fish!  Check that off my bucket list!  It was softer than I expected, and kept swimming back for more loving.  It acted like a cat, but was definitely not a catfish.  I learned some new things while there, which I love doing, about jellyfish – the Sea Walnut (which reminded me a lot of a flux capacitor) and the Upside Down jelly, in particular.  I also was a magnet for the Sea Horses, which just reaffirms my belief that I am Snow White.  Even though it wasn’t an outside activity, this aquarium was one of the highlights of Chattanooga for me.  If you get a chance to go, please do!

That night we went by Publix, ate at Mom’s and watched Jurassic Park.  It was lovely to get a rest and some family time just relaxing.  Everyone slept early, which was also nice.

Sunday after the run, we packed up and went to Shoney’s.  Step-dad wanted us to go and Emmett is nearly dumbfounded at the idea that you don’t have to wait for your food, you can just go get it!  The breakfast bar was delicious, and I ate way too much.  For our last stop before driving home, we hit up Build-a-Bear at the Northgate Mall.  We don’t have a Build-a-Bear Workshop near us, so this is a special treat that Emmett gets each time he travels to a place that has one.  After some deliberation, he chose a Pokemon outfit for his bear, and we hit the road.

The Noog was fun, refreshing, and educational.  I really have nothing negative to say.  Some things were a tad bit expensive, though someone pointed out that it might have been due to large crowds traveling up to view the eclipse.  We didn’t get to see Ruby Falls because of an enormous crowd, and I’ll also blame that on the eclipse.  The great news is, the tickets we purchased are good for a whole year!  So we’ll be back to Chattanooga in the Fall to see Ruby Falls and Christmas lights.  There was a LOT of art and friendly people (and dogs!) and we walked 4-5 miles each day.  We saw the Trail of Tears and a handful of other historical places, and I got a hug from local radio DJ Joe Cook, my mom’s friend who I’ve known and loved since I was around 5 years old.  Shops like All Things Groovy have a special place in my heart, and while I didn’t photograph them I did shop them.  Highly recommend the Chattanooga experience to anyone who wants to feel a mix of down home and big city, shore town and mountain hideaway, hipster-friendly with an appreciation for history.

Let’s Kick It

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There can be only one.

Eats:  Fluids!  No, it’s not a new diet.  It’s the stomach flu!  No kidding, everyone in the house was sick this week so I indulged in such delicacies as Lemon Lime Gatorade, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and Fruit Punch Gatorade.

Pandora:  Celtic music is my jam.  This week I’ve been listening to a lot of it.  This is possibly because I watched Braveheart a few times while I was sick (as one does), but I’ve always had an affinity for the fiddles and bawdy lyrics.  If you haven’t before, search “Celtic” in Pandora, choose “Station” and give it a listen. I bet you’ll be doing an Irish jig in no time.

Michael Flatley – Irish Jigger Extraordinaire

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Wanderlust:  Nothing new to report, sadly.  It’s a dream of mine to go to a film festival, though, and I might be close to making that happen.  Fingers crossed!

Workouts:  Because of the sickness, all I managed were Gatorade curls and sleep.  I will say, though, that the sleep was glorious.  Also, my older son is a blue belt in karate right now and I get a “kick” out of watching him practice!

Spiritual: Lots of talk about magic going on in our house this week, thanks to the Harry Potter books and Hogwarts at Universal Studios.  My son and I had an interesting discussion about magic, in which he stated he didn’t realize that “real” magic existed.  “Of course it does!”, I told him, hand to chest in faux dramatic fashion.  I let him know the secret, as I understand it:  The less a person believes in magic, the less one sees it.  The more a person believes in magic, the more he or she will be able to recognize it in the world around him.  He was delighted in this truth, and I was delighted to share it with him.

Dreams:  Animals!  I’ve had dreams about baby pandas and an avalanche of black sheep this week.  I am SURE they mean something but also sure that I probably don’t want to know.

Photographing:  Lots of screen shots of quotes this week.  I’ve been kinda grumpy and stressed, so I keep things to help me remember nice thoughts and encouraging words.

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Movies and TV: I’ve been waiting to write this portion of the blog all week!  Rumor has it (and rumor actually confirmed by Vanity Fair ) that the original cast of The Karate Kid will be reuniting for a TV special!  Words cannot express (at least, not any words in my limited vocabulary) the elation I experienced when I heard his news.  For many reasons these films (ahem, the originals only) hold a special place in my heart.  Of course, there will be a gigantic Pat Morita – sized hole in the special, but I’m hopeful that his character will be treated with honor and respect.  Ralph Macchio is by all accounts quite a nice guy, and I hope this is a hit for him and Billy Zabka.  I will definitely be watching!

Library:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Seriously, I’m only 2 pages in.  This week I’m taking sabbatical from work (don’t worry, they know about it) so I will try and sink my teeth in and share with you guys if I catch feelings.  Or start speaking Parseltongue.

Tech:  Words With Friends, mis amigos.  I’ve been challenged this week by friends, former English teachers, and total strangers.  I’ve won, I’ve lost, I’ve pitched my fists into the air in frustration.  It’s a great way to keep the mind sharp, or to get upset about how dull your mind is.  It’s one or the other.  Also, check out the Robin Hood App.  It’s a FREE stock trading app, and it is quite user-friendly.  Aptly named after the legendary outlaw who “robbed from the rich to give to the poor”, this app promises to help the “little guy” who isn’t educated on trading to build his portfolio.  Does it work?  I have no idea.  Right now they have a promotion going and if you sign up RIGHT OVER HERE you will receive one free share of mystery stock.  You can also receive free stock for any person who signs up using your link.  Free stock is free money, so go get some!

One last serious note: Rest in Peace, dear Robin Williams. It’s been three years already. Your life touched me.  Your death shook me.  Your legacy inspires me.  **If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or considering suicide, please get help.  You are not alone and you are worth fighting for.  You are unrepeatable.  There is a magic inside you that is all your own. (D.M.Dellinger)