Friday, August 29, 2014

First, the good stuff...

I have a million things on my heart. Two million thoughts in my brain. How to share them all here has been the question of the week. Hence the paralyzing writers block, that was, of course, broken at six o'clock Thursday morning. Isn't that the way?

I've decided to go with the good stuff first. Not because I'm being fake or only telling you about the good parts. I want to celebrate the good stuff first. I want to savor those moments and be thankful for them. I want them to be the moments we remember about this summer that was over way too quickly. So the good stuff first. So I don't forget.

Breakfast for dinner. Because it was way too hot to turn on an oven. And because waffles and eggs take fifteen minutes max. It's always a crowd pleaser, but it's also my favorite because I feel like it creates memories for my kids. They will never know that breakfast for dinner was because "mom just couldn't do one more thing". It will always be my secret.

New school shoes for my second grader. Because she is unbelievably hard on her shoes we went to the Van's store where she picked out these Half Cabs. Ok, maybe they aren't specifically Half Cabs, but they are to me. I did a victory dance as I am raising the daughter I somewhat conjured in my seventeen year old mind, while I wore similar Van's and a Girls Kick Ass baby T. 

In the same Van's store I caught this girl rocking out to some punk rock mix. Again, happy dance. She was totally enjoying herself. Who wouldn't enjoy themselves when their mother pushes their four year old bum around in a pink stroller. This is for ease, as she will cry seven minutes into a mall trip about her legs hurting. I've learned to pick my battles.

This check came. "Pay to the order of", Me. I got paid for my writing. For the first time ever. And while it's didn't pay any bills specifically, it did buy me moisturizer, hair dye, and concealer. That's how writers do it I guess. Savor the check. Think about framing it, and then because the money is few and far between for their writing they break down and cash them for real life things. But it's a start. And I had to start somewhere.

Crazy Costco trip with both my girls. Who love to watch the the rotisserie chickens cook. Who can't get enough of the samples. Who beg for things like double boxes of Lucky Charms because they promise this time they will eat the cereal too, and not just the marshmallows. Even the craziest Costco trips provide little moments to document. To say we were here.

Text conversations that deserve top billing on Facebook statuses. For the days I literally can't even. For the days that I just want to hide in my bed with ice cream and Grey's Anatomy. On those days, things like this save me. 

Our Fresno State season tickets came in, and it was like Christmas. The girls don't even go, but they were born into the madness, so they get it. They get how excited Daddy is for home openers and tailgating and fall. I get it too. It just takes me a little while to get acclimated.

Hilarious pictures taken in the car on our way to somewhere or nowhere. Mommy always has her camera out, trying to document the things. Most days we cooperate, but on this day. It was just too good not to post. She simply did not want her picture taken, and her sister was trying not to laugh. And of course I could not wait to post it on Instagram. Because if this ain't the life, I don't know what is.

Late night grocery store trips are things of the past since school has started, but this picture... Oh, these girls. I just had to run to the store for one thing at 9:30 at night and they just had to come. They picked out their shoes of course, and I was way too tired to fight. So I had them pose, next to the soda, and it was way too perfect. Two kids, out way past their "bedtime". I should be receiving the Life Time Achievement Award from the Mother of The Year committee any day now.

Summer came to a close Monday. But we didn't have time to dwell on it since we were too busy getting ourselves ready for the first day. My best friend asked me if Caitlin put this "look" together herself. Yes, yes she did. Down to the sunglasses. Those crutches didn't stop her either. I'm proud of her. She knows what she wants and who she is. I pray that she never loses that along the way.

Mac went back to preschool on Tuesday. This is it folks. The year before kindergarten. The year before real school. And I'm ready and not ready and my uterus is crying all at the same time. There were a few tears (hers), but for the most part, she was excited.

And even more excited when I picked her up.

So the good stuff first. Like Instagram filters and days off from work. Let's just remember the good stuff first. Goodbye Summer. Hello reality, please bring more good stuff.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's been awhile...

Confession: I had to schedule the time to write this post. I had to set my alarm for a half hour earlier than I needed to be up, in order to get something posted. It's awful because I haven't been able to drag myself to this space, and I hate that. I hate when writing something, anything feels like a chore. But I also hate when I haven't posted anything in almost a week.

A few years ago when I first started blogging, I fell in love with a lifestyle blogger. Her blog and her life seemed perfect. She was crafty, she was the first to master the cake box-cake pop, she had style and grace and wrote beautifully. I sometimes visited her blog three times a day, hoping and praying that a little of her magic would rub off on me. My day was made by reading a new post from her, and not because I'm a stalker with single white female tendencies, but because she was so damn inspiring. One morning I visited her site and there wasn't a new post. No new updates. No new crafts or things to bake. I went back after lunch and again at dinner, and still nothing. WTF? Didn't this blogger know that I needed to read new content every day? Didn't she realize the world was waiting on her? 

Of course she didn't. She had a life. A beautiful one. A busy one. A real one.

I get it now. The compulsion to continue to churn out new and interesting material every day until you just can't. Today, almost four years after the fact, I get that most bloggers don't have the time to just sit and write all day. We are mothers, some of us working mothers, we are wives and sisters and daughters and friends. We have school drop off and lunches to make and toilets to clean. And then some of us then have to go and put in a shift at work, or still work from home. Some days it's just impossible to meet your readers with something new.

Today, I realize how much I miss this place. I squandered a lot of time this summer. And not just time I could have spent writing, but time I could have spent with my kids and my family. I worked a lot this summer, a fact that just defeated me. It wasn't the summer I wanted to have with my kids. I wanted to do beach days and pool days and get that beautiful brown color that my kids developed. Instead I worked. And it sent me to this place that exhausted me and paralyzed me. Now that school has started the guilt has set in. I could write an entire post on what we could have done this summer if I just would have accepted this season in my life instead of fought so hard to avoid it and it's truths. 

I woke up this morning thinking that if I could just spend the day writing, I could get my life back on track. I could have fresh content for readers. Fill you guys in on the last two weeks. Share a recipe or what I have been reading. That was the plan for today, to write my heart out. Then I remembered that we need things from Costco and Target. I remembered that I need to pay the dance studio and call the dentist. I remembered that my family wants to see me on my day off. And I remembered that this blog is not always as important as I think it is. Which is hard to admit. Which breaks my heart. But it's solidly the truth. 

This post has been all over the place. I blame the time of day. But there is something quite poetic about writing as the sun comes up. A new day is emerging, and with it I hope a new outlook. I hope that after we get through this first week of school, and get settled in a new routine, finding time to write will become easier. Finding time for life in general with hopefully become easier. Until then, I will take these pockets of time where I can get them. Even if they feel like the middle of the night.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to reality

Getting our sillies out before school starts.

Tomorrow reality will set in. I'm not sure we are ready.

Tomorrow, reality begins again. Summer is gone. Gone. How could it be? But school starts tomorrow, and I know that reality will set in real quick. Because I haven't written a damn thing for this space in over a week. Because despite our best efforts, no one will go to bed at a decent hour tonight. Because tomorrow not only do I have to get myself ready for work, Caitlin ready for school, child care lined up, and find time to call the OBGYN about my annual (which I've been putting off), I also have to be happy about all of those things. I'm exhausted already. It's not that I'm not a happy person, or that I'm depressed, or that my life sucks. On the contrary, I like this little life of mine, but sometimes it feels so very big and overwhelming. I have a habit of letting things pile on. I have a habit of waiting until the last minute. I have a habit of being a pessimist. But aside from all of that, some days I'm just too exhausted to fake it till I make it. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be one of those days. On the bright side, I have a second grader who is looking forward to school, even if she has to tackle the first day on crutches. I bought a new bra today, and as many of you can agree, that's like winning the motherhood lottery. Even better I got it for $15 off with a coupon. I know, it's like Christmas. And even though tomorrow morning may be hard and exhausting, I can feel that little buzz in the air. The excitement for new adventures. The excitement to see friends we have missed all summer. We will fake it until we make it, and honestly it may take until October, but we will do it. One bleary eyed morning at a time. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I could have been anything

A few weeks ago my neighbors and I were having a pow wow in the front yard. We were laughing and joking when one of my neighbors said, "You know what? I could have been a...". I can't remember what he said he was going to be. That's not the point, the point is that I replied, "We all could have been a lot of things, but now we are this". I wasn't saying it to be negative, I was just stating the obvious. We were a bunch of parents just sitting in the front yard, watching our kids play. Parents that work daily to figure out how to be the best parents and partners to our spouses. But the more I thought about it the more I realized there was more to it for me.

It's true. I could have been a lot of things. When I was four I wanted to be a ballerina. When I was nine I wanted to be a lawyer. In high school I wanted to be a fashion designer, then an editor at Sassy, and then an editor at Vogue. After college I wanted to be a buyer for Macy's. I feel like my whole life I've wanted to be something.

It's horrible being a mother wasn't always on my list of what I wanted to be when I grew up. that I didn't always want to become a mother? Maybe it's because I read way too much about strong women in impossible roles. It's possible that all the riot-girl vinyl continues to play in my subconscious. Maybe it's because I felt like I missed my era when I read about Gloria Steinem. Or it could just be that I just couldn't see myself as a mother. Whatever the reason, I had big dreams of what I was going to be when I grew up and being a wife and a mom were always afterthoughts. 

Funny how something as simple as falling in love and getting married can change your mind. Once I could see myself as a wife, I could almost imagine myself as a mother. The more I thought about the more it sounded like a good idea. The more it seemed like it would fit. When I finally realized I wanted to be a mother, I went wholeheartedly. I had great ideas and ridiculously high hopes. Like all my other career aspirations, I had it all mapped out, I just knew, in my mind exactly how it would go. But as we all know, there are no plans when it comes to motherhood.

I was in the thick of it, when I finally decided I wanted to be a mom. I was knee deep in the shit that is motherhood. It was almost like a declaration: I want to be a good mother damn it. I want to do this. But more than that, I wanted to be their mother. The only one they will ever get.

The truth is, I am a mother, their mother, in the best and worst possible ways. I am flawed. I am loving. And hilariously enough, I am still learning, every day. But I am their mother in the most cliche, most overwhelming way. And suddenly I realize it's what I really want to be. It's finally the job that fits. The one that sticks.

I realize now that I still can be anything. Anything and everything, including their mother. Motherhood makes you believe in the impossible. If you can make it through this, you can make it through anything. Today I know that there is still time for me, no matter the dream, no matter the job. I realize that I could have been anything, but without being their mother, I would have never tried, never been as brave, never taken a chance.

I could have been anything, and now I'm this. So, wholeheartedly, this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Club {Every Ugly Word}

***This is a book review for a book that I was approached to review. I was given an e-copy of the book, and no additional compensation for this review.

Have you ever read a book that is so incredibly gripping that you have to keep reading just to see how it will all end? This was the case with Every Ugly Word, by Aimee L. Salter. Every Ugly Word is a YA novel about the horrible world of bullying. Salter tells us the story of Ashley who is, in graphic detail, bullied in high school. Ashley's only relief is her own reflection in the mirror, but there is a twist to her reflection, it's her older self. This may sound hokey, but it makes for a very interesting story.

What I liked best about this book is that I believe it's a very accurate account of what bullying has morphed into since I was in high school. I remember the rumors about the "school slut", the notes passed in class, hating the girl that talked to your boyfriend, and all of that. In this book, we see the effects social media and and the struggle to be part of the "in crowd" have on teens today. I think that this book would be an excellent read for anyone who has been accused of bullying. This would really open their eyes to how something as simple as starting a rumor or name calling can snowball into something else. But really, lots of tweens and teen could benefit by reading this book. It would give them a better understanding on what bullying looks like. I feel like sometimes when you are in the middle of it, whether bullying or being bullied, you can't really see what is happening.

I also enjoyed the suspense of the book. It's told in two parts, real time and flash backs, or so you think. I'm not entirely sure which was which. But in telling Ashley's story, Salter really kept the pace going. I finished this book in less than three days. I just had to know what was going to happen to Ashley. I was totally invested in her story, but I'm still on the fence about her as a character.

Sadly, Ashley wasn't the most likable character. We find that she started one of the rumors about herself to bolster her popularity. The Author chalks this up to naive stupidity as a tween, but the consequences never leave Ashley as we now find her as a senior. I had a hard time with this, since I felt like she put herself in this situation. I was able to have sympathy for her but not pity,she has a horrible mother, no father figure, and a best friend who seems dense at best. I know with all of those things stacked against her, it may be hard for her to reach out to anyone for help. Even her best friend seems to have blinders on when it comes to her bullies.

The book lost me all together when it seems that no one with any kind of authority at the school sees this kind of bullying. It's also hard to read that her mother was so cold and calculating that she does nothing to help, and only adds to Ashley's grief when she bullies Ashley at home. The poor main character in this book is beaten mentally for so long she thinks this is just how life is going to be.

Would I suggest this book to you all in bloggyland? Yes. Yes if you like quick YA reads, yes, if you can agree and believe in some almost paranormal activity, yes if you remember what it was like to be bullied yourself. This book alludes to a happy ending. It makes you believe that Ashley is going to be alright. And that's all fine and dandy, but I still wanted more consequences for her aggressors. I wanted to know what happened to her mother. Was her mother remorseful? Did she finally realize how horrible she was to her daughter? And what ever happened to all the teachers and administrators who didn't ever see a thing? I feel like Salter could have wrote another hundred pages on just consequences and I would have happily read them. But that's just me. I wanted to see all those a-holes getting what they deserved after they just about killed Ashley, figuratively and literally.

I really did like Salter's style, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Please check out her author page, and check out her book if you are looking for a departure from your regular YA books about futuristic societies or vampires and werewolves. I'm not saying it's free of fantasy, but I am saying no one sparkles or has to fight against the capital. Not that there is anything wrong with that either.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do you want to build a snowWOMAN? {Or sing a song to slash any remaining gender stereotypes?}

Frozen still has a huge presence in this house. Despite the Anna and Elsa dolls, the story behind the Elsa Dress, and my over all love for a story that literally proclaims, "Sisters before Misters", I still love the effect that Frozen is having on my daughters.

Last week the girls and I were driving my mom home after a day of shopping. Of course Mackenzie wanted to hear the Frozen soundtrack and we went through all the songs, singing along. Doing the voices, you know the drill. During a fantastic sing a long to "Let it Go", Mackenzie said that she wanted a "Frozen 2". We all agreed, a sequel to Frozen would be fantastic. Most likely not as amazing as the first, but still, with the same cast, I'd be there on opening night. My mom said that she wondered what kind of story Frozen 2 would tell. I was like, "Does it matter?", but my mom blurted out, "Elsa needs a husband. Frozen 2 can be about Elsa and a husband". I kid you not, the following are actual events:

loud voice from the back seat:


My Mom: Don't you think Elsa needs a King?

Caitlin: Elsa does not need a King, Grandma! She is free.

Me: Well amen to that! Look mom, I'm doing it right!

I've never been prouder. Let's break this down a little. One, my seven year old daughter realizes that Elsa has choices, and she does not need any man in her life to make it better. Elsa is free to be who she is and live in that fancy ice castle alone, making a closet full of ice stilettos if she chooses. Two, my seven year old daughter has the wherewithal to realize that you can be happy and live a very fulfilled life without a man. Ok, maybe not to that extent just yet, but this little lesson in feminism will not leave her as she grows into a young lady. 

Maybe I'm getting away from myself, but I think Gloria Steinem would high five me on my parenting win. I've never wanted anything more that to raise my girls with a strong sense of self. To raise them to know that they are enough, that they are strong, that they have choices. I want my girls to grow up and know that their possibilities are endless. I can do that because that's what my mama did for me. And so last week it all felt kind of full circle.

Can we talk about this little burst of "girl power" for a moment. Sure this isn't a burning bra moment by any means, but the tides have turned for our little ladies. When I was a kid I watched cartoon after cartoon and read story after story where the princesses were saved by the prince. The stories were filled with women who were almost strong enough, but in the end, they still needed that man to cross the threshold. A man to save them and make them feel safe and secure. Does anyone remember that scene in the Sex and the City movie when Carrie tells Lilly, Charlotte's daughter, that "Cinderella" doesn't really happen. If she wants to live in a castle all by herself that's all right too. I loved that scene, because I had always wondered what would have happened if Cinderella took that pumpkin carriage and got the hell out of dodge. I mean Cinderella had a Fairy Effing Godmother! Why didn't she ask for a convertible pumpkin and a new wardrobe? What if Ariel just swam up to Eric and was like, "Hey you wanna go for a swim?". What if Sleeping Beauty woke up and was like, "Hey, thanks for the kiss dude, but I've got a life to live". Seriously? What if all the Disney Princesses before Elsa had choices?

If I allow myself to take this Frozen Feminism crazy train, I can look at my daughters and know that they will always know they have a choice. They can get married, or they can live alone. They can choose to be a career woman or they can choose to be a stay at home mom. They can choose to travel the world or they can choose to grow roots right here in Fresno California. But they have the choice. Could we be moving closer to the day when the pressure to get married and have kids disappears? Could we be moving closer and closer to a time when our daughters will know that the best person to save them is themselves?

Thanks to Frozen, my girls realize there is more to life than some man to save you. They will know that not all men are "Princes", that some aren't who they say they are. They will grow up knowing that sisters are warriors, and will fight for each other. Thanks to Frozen, my seven year old knows that a man isn't an answer to your problems, even if you have set off an eternal winter and almost killed your sister accidentally.

Finally, we can sing at the top of our lungs, "Boys never bothered us anyway!"***.

Have I mentioned I'm totally doing this right?

***Editors Note: "Boys never bothered me anyway", is an original quote from the Hubbs. He sang this little ditty, to the tune of Let It Go, when I told this story. He wanted to be sure I gave him all the credit.

Friday, August 15, 2014

When it's dark...

I've been talking a lot about depression this week. We all have and for good reason. People may think that it's funny for us, as a nation and as humans, to mourn for someone we may have never met. To mourn for a man who was in movies and on TV, who made us laugh and cry, and quote lines from his movies. But we are justified in our grief for many reasons. One, because it was so sudden and tragic, knocking us off balance in the middle of an otherwise normal day. Two, because of the way that he went, taking his own life. And three, because we then have to ask the question as to why.

I've grown tired of the Facebook posts about depression and suicide. The bad ones that say perhaps if Robin Williams was a more faithful man, if perhaps he took a moment to look at what he had, how much he had to live for. The posts that try to place the blame. Those posts and articles drive me crazy because I don't believe for one minute that depression is something that humans can control. When I think about depression I imagine that it's a vine, that grows and wraps itself around the heart and the mind. It binds the arms and the legs and even gags our mouths. And before we know it, the darkness sets in.

We can talk about all of the things that Robin Williams had in his life, a wife, children, an amazing career spanning decades. He had fans and admirers all over the world, he was famous, he was, he was, he was... 
I could go on forever about all of the things that he was, but I have a feeling that despite all of the things that he had, he never felt like he deserved them.

The thing about the darkness, it makes you feel like you will never be enough. No matter what you have, no matter who you are, you will never feel like you deserve it, you will never feel like you've earned it. The bottom line is that the darkness makes you believe that you are never going to be enough for all the things that you have.

In any event, these are just my opinions. My thoughts on depression and how it changes you, are based on personal experience. How it makes you believe things you never would have before the darkness. I have no idea what Robin Williams was wrestling with, I won't even try. I didn't know him personally, I wasn't his friend, I was just a fan. But I will say that my heart broke when I heard the news, because on the day he took his own life, he felt like that was the answer. That by leaving this world, it would solve everything.

My heart breaks for all those out in the world that think suicide is the answer. To be there, in that pocket of the darkness is a lonely place. Can you imagine being there? Thinking that the only answer to the pain and despair is taking your own life? It should break your heart, it should stir compassion and empathy. Unfortunately, conversations of suicide and depression are rarely met with either of these.

I know a little about depression. The darkness, the weight, the feeling of drowning out of the water. I've battled pockets of dark my whole life. I'm not afraid to admit it today, but at one time I was. Those times I felt stuck, struggling to stay above water, afraid to admit those feelings of inadequacy. Afraid to admit that I was depressed. Afraid that that word would swallow me whole. I'll admit that I never got to the point where I wanted to take my own life, but at times, I've wanted to run away. As a teen, I wanted to run away from the bullying, the words that people were saying about me. Then as a mother, I wanted to run, far away. Thinking that my family deserved better, that I would never be enough for them. I was lucky, I was able to get help, to talk about my fears and my thoughts. I was able to find my way back.

Depression has been my mind this week. It's been on many minds this week. But let's not forget about next week and the week after that. Robin Williams was famous, and we will talk about him and his passing for years. But will we continue to talk about depression and suicide for years? Will we talk about it so much that it will take the stigma away? How can we continue to have the conversation about depression and mental illness so that it's no longer taboo? So it's not longer something we fear and something we accept. 

So as this week ends, and another begins, please continue to talk. Continue to talk about Robin Williams, or your neighbor, or your sister. Talk about that friend in high school or college. Talk about that mama friend of yours. Talk about those people who have struggled with depression. Tell those stories, embrace those stories. You may even be able to tell your own story. You never know who may be listening. You never know who you might inspire. You never know you might need some help, some understanding, some empathy. 

You never know who may need a little light in the dark.

If you need help with depression or suicidal thoughts