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 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Daughters

I snapped this picture a few weeks ago. My best friend and her brood, I can call them that since she has three kids now, came over to swim at my mom's house. It was hot, as is typical for this time of year in Fresno, and the perfect day to be in the pool. As we sat there, my friend marveled at the fact that we have reached the point in motherhood where we can sit and have a conversation. Our older kids outnumber our younger kids, so they can all help take care of each other. We sat, and talked about everything and nothing at all. It's something we have always wanted, as friends, for our kids to get along. For our children to call each other friends and grow up together. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it doesn't. In that afternoon we drank in the blessing of having kids that can get along. Kids that have fun together no matter the gender.

But it was this picture in particular that gave me pause. These two daughters, not sisters, almost friends. Two little humans who were surprises. Who are blessings. Because I didn't want a second child. I was so scared to try motherhood again. To start over from scratch. Would it be as awful the second time around? Would I be able to recognize the fog, the darkness that almost swallowed me whole? Some how I found the courage to take a chance, to "hand it over to Jesus" (that is a direct quote, ask my best friend) and try motherhood again. It's the best cliff I've ever jumped off.

For the second little human up there, I won't tell her story. It isn't mine to tell. But I can tell you this, her mama, my best friend, had resigned herself to a life of boys. She had two boys by the time I had my two girls and we, collectively (and without our husbands input, I might add) decided that we were done. Two was good. Two felt right. And then, life happened and well, my best friend found out that three felt better. Now she is awash in pinks and glitter and tulle. She now dreams about pink ballet slippers and fancy Easter dresses. And while she will never trade her boys and their Ninja Power Rangers Lego catastrophes for anything, she will tell you that pink princess tea parties make her heart flutter.

It's so funny how you can make single declarations about motherhood, and be so incredibly wrong about them. In the beginning I hated being proved wrong by motherhood. Motherhood was supposed to be regimented and by the book. I was so wrong and so naive, and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful that motherhood has proved me wrong time and again. If I had followed my fear, instead of letting go, I wouldn't have my second helping of motherhood. I wouldn't have my beautiful blessing. And if my best friend had listened to her own fears and the naysayers, she wouldn't have her beautiful blessing either.

The tale of these two daughters is beautiful and flawed and perfect and imperfect. It's a story about fear and love and overcoming the fears that seem impossibly large. Because the tale of these two daughters is just another tale of how motherhood continues to change their mothers again and again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing for Fun {Pooping the Table}

A few months ago I spend a late night writing down some thoughts that I hope will one day materialize into a book. As always I'm never sure if I should publish things like this, but because I'm at a loss at what to write today, I thought maybe this would get the creative buzz flowing. Let me know what you think. This passage is based on actual events, although I may have changed the dialog a bit. Thanks for playing along with me and my writing.

Poop the Table

No three words have put the fear of God in me more.  I remember the day I read about pooping the table.  I immediately called my only friend who had actually given birth.

Me:  Is this a thing?  "Pooping the Table"?

Her:  Well yeah, I mean you are pushing, and its like if you push hard enough…

Me:  Are you fucking kidding me?  It’s not bad enough that I’m going to break my vagina, now i have to worry about shitting on my doctor?

Her:  (laughing) Not everyone does it.  I mean some women don’t actually poop the table.

Me:  Did you?

Her:  Honestly I don’t even know.  I didn’t even ask.  There is so much going on down there I could have.

Me: Don’t you want to know?

Her:  No. Never.

After clearing that up with her I made the mistake of telling the Hubbs about it.  I should have known telling him would be a complete disaster. He was mystified that I could poop while giving birth.  

Him:  That could happen?  Like you could actually shit on the table.  Like as the baby comes out?

Me:  I don’t know I guess.

Him:  that is so fucking cool.

Me:  What? WHAT?

Him:  You could shit.  On the table.  While having a baby.  It’s like a movie or something.

Me:  Shitting the table is not cool.  It’s not like a movie.  It’s not something I’m planning on doing.

Him:  But how cool if you did?

Me:  I can’t believe I’m having a baby with you.

I’ll say this.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t poop the table the first time.  The second time, I could have, I was in so much pain I wasn't paying attention to much else. Pooping the table is real, though.  It’s not a phenomenon or an urban legend. That’s why back in my mother’s child bearing days, all expectant mothers got an enema when they went into labor.  How fun does that sound?  I guess you could still have one today if you were really scared about it. But honestly, when you are in the absolute thick of labor, there is all kinds of nonsense happening down there, and shitting the table is the least of your concerns.  I promise.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

This is the real me {coffee date}

There are days when I wish we really could sit down and have a cup of coffee together. Days where I could send you a last second text to say, "Hey my house is a disaster, but nothing that will kill you, so how about a cup of something. Anything you want, as long as we can sit and talk". Wouldn't that be so much fun? But fun isn't the only reason. I'd love for many of you to see me in real life to show you that this is me. One hundred percent me. I don't sit at the keyboard every day or every other day to write about another person's life. I sit here and write about my life. The one that I have grown into. The one that has changed me in so many good ways. I sit here and write about this life, the good, the bad, and the sometimes terribly ugly truths that pop up. 

Two minute dinners sponsored by Nitrates and Microwaves
A few weeks ago, I was challenged on this blog's authenticity. I was talking to a real life friend who told me that she finds it hard to read this blog, because "Absolute Mommy" isn't the Megan she knows. She confessed that she doesn't know the "Megan" who writes this blog. She feels that they are not the same person, or the same voice. This shocked me and hurt me in a really deep way. When I sat out to write this blog almost four years ago, my one and only rule was that I always be honest. That I always tell the truth about motherhood. In four years I've learned so many things about myself by living and breathing those truths. But for a few days I replayed that conversation. Am I the person I claim to be on this blog? Am I wholly authentic to my voice and my readers? Am I the person I claim to be?

Last nights make up is just a myth with the right Instagram filter

It took a few days. I looked at what I put out on Facebook and Instagram. I looked at my blog content. What posts were most popular? What did people respond to? For starters they liked my posts about microwaved dinners and wearing last nights make up to pick up breakfast at McDonald's. Readers have responded to posts about Poise pads and Brazilian waxing. People have responded to fights with my daughter, struggles with my temper, and my admittance that I may not be the best mother that ever lived. All things that I have wholeheartedly written with nothing but honesty and fear. Was I nervous to post about my Brazilian wax experience? Hell yes! Have I lingered over the publish button on posts about fighting with Caitlin? Absolutely. But that is my fear. Fear that I'm being too honest. That I'm sharing too much. But never a fear of being authentic. 

Wrestling with Daddy at eleven at night - what bedtime?

In defense of myself and this blog, I told my friend that I have changed so much in the last four years, but the truth is, I've changed so much in the last seven years. My friend is right in mentioning that I'm not the confident woman I once was. That confidence and that person were thrown out with the placenta the day my oldest was born. My confidence and self worth were shredded that day. I still don't have an answer to why, other than I was scared and realized that I was now "in charge" of an actual life. Motherhood took away the idea that I was perfect, infallible, and a quick study. Motherhood spun me and then left me waist high in a pile of dirty diapers and pacifiers. How could I not change? How could I not grow into someone new? Motherhood forces the best parts of you to rise to the occasion. After four years, I think that this blog is one of my best parts.

Against All Grain Real Deal Choco-chip Cookies for Dinner

This blog helped me find my confidence again. It allowed me to be honest with you, my readers, but also with myself. When a problem in my life arises, I try to spin it, maybe with humor, maybe with tears, but I will always share it here. This blog is two parts therapy and one part camaraderie. I share my problems and then I receive emails and comments on how I'm not effing up as bad as the next person. I'm not afraid to admit my short coming anymore. I'm not afraid to tell you that Caitlin sleeps in our bed, still at seven, once or twice a week. That I still crawl into bed with Mac when she night wakes. I'm not afraid to tell you that on some nights I forget dinner all together. That sometimes we skip baths on multiple days over the summer. That I let my girls watch episodes of Uncle Grandpa well after a reasonable bedtime, just so the Hubbs and I can have a conversation without interruption. I'm not afraid to admit to cookies for dinner and failed whole 30 challenges, and that I've started and stopped 5K training more times than I can count this summer. I'm not afraid of those things anymore. Because writing them down takes away their power. Admitting them out loud makes them seem insignificant. 

So yes, there are days when I wish I knew many of you in real life. I wish you could come to my house and see the American Girl/Monster High/Barbie Sharknado that has hit my house. I wish you could see the dishes in the sink, and the mail still on the counter from yesterday, and the bench covered with June's progress reports and school letters. I wish you could see how I look on a day I don't post an outfit of the day, what I look like with out the magical hair powder that covers my bald spot, without the concealer that hides my dark under eye circles. I wish you could see for just one moment that this is truly me. 

Yup, that's me!

It took me thirty three years to find my voice. All through high school and college I wondered what I'd really do with myself. Who was I going to be in this life? It took a husband, a marriage, and two beautiful girls to light a fire under my ass. It took becoming a mother to let go of all the fears I've ever had, the ones about being fat or ugly or not good enough. Motherhood forces you to live, it forces you to move on and get over it. Motherhood forced me to grow up and find out who I was, who I wanted to be. So here I am, Megan, who had to grow up and be Mommy. 

Who is now, so wonderfully and definitely Absolute Mommy.