New Year, Same Ol’ Me

I have always loved making New Year’s resolutions. I would never consider myself an idealist, but every time January 1st rolls around I enthusiastically make a list of all the things I hate about myself and all the ways I’m going to fix them.

2002: Get kissed by a boy. You are fourteen, this is getting embarrassing!

2003: Finish writing the Great American novel!

2004: Finish a novel.

2005: Finish a novel, already!

2006: Seriously, you can do it this time! Finish a novel!

2007: Learn a second language and become a legit hippie.

2008: Be kinder to people.

2009: Really travel.

2010: How’s that novel coming?

2011: Clean up your language, you are a mother now!

2012: Exercise and eat right.

2013: Seriously, get a handle on your temper.

2014: Be kinder to people.

2016: Eat better and exercise!

But this year, as all of the old and new things I hate about myself were rolling around in my head searching for a common solution: less technology, more healthy choices, do more stuff you enjoy doing so you aren’t a stressed out person all the time! I couldn’t settle on any strict resolutions I had a prayer of following through on for even a day. This year I couldn’t even delude myself like I always have in the past. Less technology? I was writing these goals on my phone, getting bored, and checking Facebook. Healthier choices? Great, but it’s family movie night, and that includes Milk Duds. So…. Do more stuff I enjoy? That I can do. That I can make happen! Right? Well, except my kids are too young to take hiking, I am a full-time English student, my writing time is already spoken for and the same goes for reading, my love of baking actively undermines my “healthier choices” code phrase for “diet”, and traveling is always restricted by financial realities.

Speaking of reality, as I was texting a friend all of these thoughts and ideas, it suddenly hit me, this is my reality. Trust me, I understand you can probably read this and think of solutions to counteract my list of objections, but even as you give them to me, I will smile and nod, with a knot of dread in my stomach because I know that isn’t my reality.

So that’s what I’ve decided. In 2017 I will be okay with myself and my reality. I will not be disheartened by unrealistic expectations of myself. I will be okay that this is where I am in life right now. I am in a place where my phone is the window to the world I don’t actually get out in much as a Stay at Home Mom. I am going to accept that healthier choices don’t need to be extreme diet overhauls I can never follow through with, because for me it will look like going to the gym for the relief of free childcare, it might look like roasting veggies and chicken in olive oil for dinner and following up with Milk Duds because it is family movie night after all. As for doing more of what makes me happy, and that was the big one for me, it means learning to be okay with the fact that motherhood is a sacrifice and life is hard, and right now as a full-time student with a 5, 3, and 1 year old I just don’t get to. And that’s okay because in a couple years I can drag them down hiking trails with me, I have a husband I can kiss any time I want to, and someday I will write a novel. Maybe even the whole thing.

Because the thing about the reality of who I am is that it protects me from who I’m not. I can’t just up and decide I am a mom in the style of Gwyneth Paltrow anymore than I could flip my non-existent hippie switch when I was a teenager. The reason I can’t follow through with what may sound like good ideas, even when given very real solutions of how I can do so, is that deep down inside, that’s not who I am or where I am at right now. As you can imagine I didn’t have the experience or talent needed to write the Great American novel at 15. I wanted to, I really did, but I couldn’t. And that’s okay.

None of this is to say self-improvement is a scam, it is just to say, becoming a better version of myself means making little decisions every day to foster my natural maturation and it won’t be accomplished by any sweeping declarations motivated by a deep dissatisfaction with reality.

So my unconventional New Year’s Resolution is this:

Someday is okay. Because right now I am good enough and I don’t want to spend another year disappointed in myself for not being someone different.

This Is It

Today is the last day of summer, my youngest just let go and walked for the first time. Tomorrow my oldest will start her first day of kindergarten.

It is all really scary, because these are the kind of moments that remind me I’m in the thick of it. These are the days that I will never get back. I’m not waiting to begin anymore; I’ve started.

So I ask myself, terrified of the answer, am I remembering everything? Am I cherishing enough? Did I prepare them well enough for the new adventures; am I preparing them well enough for the next?

To be honest, I’m not always sure I’m a grown up yet. I don’t feel like one. But I guess being married with three kids, a mortgage, and being responsible for my own laundry should probably change the way I look at myself. I’m in charge of all of this. Even when I don’t feel ready and I don’t know what I am doing. I’m not the kid anymore, now I’m the mom who has to remember to pack the lunch and attach the wristbands, and calm Viola’s nerves. I have to find the words to tell my heartbroken three year old she won’t be joining her sister in school just yet. I have to remember to coax Harvey across the floor, cheer for him when he walks and talk him through his stumbles.

I’m pretty sure I’m looking into the eyes of a sleepless night. Wondering how in the world little Viola will manage that big yellow bus and bigger school and all of those classmates. Wondering what Daphne will do without her older sister to play with all day. Wondering if Harvey will walk and if he does how I will manage to keep him from falling down the stairs or drowning in a toilet.

Next week, I too start classes, finally getting around to finishing up my degree. I’ve been choosing not to think about it, instead trying to keep the butterflies at bay since they feel a bit more like flesh-eating moths.

Will we be okay? Will all of us be okay?

And that is the thing, we can never know, we have to wait and find out. I don’t get to google the spoilers. I just have to live out each moment. Trying to make the memories count, trying not to let it all slip by too quickly, but being ready for each inevitable change and facing all of them like the grownup I am.

Because this is it.

Demand Change

Intimidated by the authority that she senses at only 5 years old, my daughter often asks, “Why are there police? What do they do?”

“They make sure that everyone is following the rules so that we are all safe” I respond, inwardly patting myself on the back for being such a good mom, teaching respect for law enforcement to my children from the very beginning. “So they keep us safe,” I add, summing up my point. And then for a second, I cringe a little. The thing is, they do keep us safe, if by “us” I am talking about the inhabitants of my Mazda minivan, my white children and I, my boyish faced white husband who has talked his way out of more tickets than most people you have met combined, with nothing more than a few well placed “yes sirs” and that innocent face he won in the genetic lottery. Then as I keep driving my daughter’s voice still chirping merrily from the back seat, names start passing through my head. Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner.

They didn’t keep them safe.

And now within a couple of days we have the tragedies of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile. Let me clarify a few points. I get there were in most of these cases, extenuating circumstances. Alton Sterling had a rap sheet a mile long, I get it. But here is the issue. I trust the cops to keep me safe from the bad guys. I don’t expect bad guys to just follow the law a little better.

Our police officers have all made an oath to serve and protect. And that is very simply, their job.

I saw a tweet today saying, “When I’m pulled over I never fear for my safety; I’m only annoyed and trying to avoid a ticket. That’s privilege. #Philandro Castile” while I appreciate the point he was making, the thing is, that isn’t privilege. It is the basic right of an American that we are paying to have. It is a basic right that our black brothers and sisters are being denied.

I am not trying to paint all law enforcement with a broad brush of racism, paranoia, and general ineptitude. There are more good cops than bad, but based on a project by The Guardian 561 civilians have died at the hands of law enforcement this year alone (it’s only July.) And as long as there are long lists like the one above full of names each signifying at best questionable, at worst cut and dry unjustifiable killings of civilians at the hands of law enforcement, we have a problem it is long past time to correct.

Many other large and industrialized nations don’t have this problem. Australia, Canada, the UK. We must demand better from our law enforcement. We must demand that they are held accountable, since we pay them to be accountable. While I thank each and every one of them for their choice to serve us in highly dangerous jobs, I expect them to do their jobs well. I expect our police officers to be vetted thoroughly to ensure candidates who can’t handle the pressure of putting their life on the line every day aren’t given the opportunity. I expect them to ensure candidates who can’t make wise life or death decisions in a moment of high adrenaline aren’t asked to do so anyway. And I expect those men and women who can’t serve each and every inhabitant of this country regardless of physical appearance with the benefit of the doubt they are guaranteed by the constitution, that those individuals will never be given a gun and the authority to use it on the rest of us.

There are many practical steps we can take to make the necessary changes to stop these tragedies from occurring, but the very first step is going to have to be the first step imperative to any true change: acknowledging the problem.

Acknowledging the problem means watching a video of a man being tased and pinned to the ground and shot multiple times and not stopping and demanding that we wait until the Police Unions get involved and the cops do a thorough investigation of themselves to draw any conclusions, it means admitting what we just saw is what we just saw. It means that when a woman who thinks her fiance just had his arm blown off by a crazy cop at a traffic stop pulls out her camera to video the injustice to prove a point her community has been trying to make for a long time now, only to realize to her horror and disbelief that the cop actually killed him for the crime of reaching for his driver’s license, we don’t stop and say “well it looks pretty bad, but she may be lying”. We cry with her and her 4 year old baby, and then we start demanding to see heads roll.

It is time for change. It is time to stop making this about whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican, whether or not the victims were choir boys or thugs, it is time we looked at our civil servants and say “this is not what we are paying you for”, because we are one and when you kill one of us out of fear and racial profiling, you have failed all of us. We expect better. We demand better.

Someday, When My house Looks Just Like a Magazine.

“Someday,” I mutter to myself as I look at my most recent picture on Facebook. While my daughter is the point of the picture and she is predictably adorable, I didn’t realize until a moment too late that the picture I posted showcased the embarrassing jumble of drawings stuck all over our refrigerator.

“Someday,” I vow to myself. “Someday!”

Someday there will be no more rumpled, scribbled on pieces of paper fluttering off all sides of my fridge. It will be tidy, with only a neat calendar to remind me of appointments pinned unobtrusively to the side.

Someday I won’t feel cheerios crunching under my feet five minutes after sweeping the floor. It will go days and weeks and months with no fat bellies scooting mightily across it, drooling all over it with the effort, little feet pattering across it, food being flung joyously in the air above it. It will be so clean.

Someday there will be no soapy hand prints on the bathroom mirror. No apple cores hidden in the toy chest. There won’t be towers made of books teetering perilously. I won’t be screeching with pain as a jagged mega block impales my foot.

My house will smell of pine and lilac. My walls will be just as I imagined when I chose the perfect shade in the hardware store, no scrapes or stains to ruin the effect. My curtains will hang in the windows, without holes cut by big scissors in mischievous hands.

My piles of folded laundry will sit patiently on the coffee table as I finish my episode of Downton Abbey before they are returned to their drawers. No misguided little helpers refolding them for me, undoing all of my work.

I will have this house looking like a magazine spread. I am sure of it.

Why am I crying?blog

#shoutyourbirth

I was 21, had been married less than three months, I had plans to finish school, travel, be a newlywed with all of the joy that it brings to be young and in love with very little responsibility.

Then I found out that I was pregnant. After a minor panic attack as the pregnancy test lit up positive for my life spiraling completely out of my control I went to show my husband.

I’ll spare you the details, but getting accidentally pregnant had been a mutual effort and yet as I saw his face fall and his eyes widen with despair, my spirit sunk even lower, this was my fault, I felt instinctively, somehow I had messed up our lives.

Then came the phone calls. I had to call friends and family we were eager to impress with our wise choices, to tell them that while we had begged them to believe we were mature enough to get married so young, in fact, we hadn’t even been able to competently handle birth control.

We were serving in a restaurant living off of tips; we were alone in the world, hours away from any sort of support system. Tanner was in school for a career he no longer had any interest in pursuing and I wasn’t even in school yet and now I probably never would be.

Tanner’s hair started falling out in clumps from the stress. I was too nauseous and miserable to make it through half of my shifts at the restaurant.

That was four years ago.

Four years, two cities, three houses, two more babies, a lot of stress, and even more happiness.

I could have marched into Planned Parenthood; convinced myself every day for the rest of my life she was just a clump of cells and my abortion was just a routine, outpatient medical procedure; and time would have kept moving and somewhere around now I could be trying for my first baby as we had originally intended.

I will never know what my #shoutyourabortion could have said. Maybe it would have said “I was 21 and way too young to be a mom. A bachelor’s degree later I know I made the right choice. #shoutyourabortion” maybe it would have said “I had an abortion in 2010. Now I have a beautiful little boy and couldn’t be happier about how things turned out #shoutyourabortion”.

I wouldn’t have known about the soft brown curls, her twinkly green eyes that turn up at the corners, her impressive command of the English language. I wouldn’t have heard her sweet voice singing a room away, seen her streaking from the bath sopping wet, naked as a jay bird, and giggling like a lunatic.

I would never have known that she would be everything to me.

I understand that pro-choice advocates consider 2010 Viola just a clump of cells, just a potential child, not an actual one. The fundamental disagreement is that I believe she mattered just as much then, kicking in my uterus, with only me to protect her as she does now.

But if you want to remove the stigma from abortion by telling your stories of the choice you made at the same juncture I once faced, then I needed to share mine. I may never convince you that a baby’s life in the womb is more important than a mother’s bodily autonomy. I understand this, but I do want to tell you that there was a time when I was frantic and scared and angry at myself for ruining everything and I made the choice to protect the baby I had made rather than do away with it. And I was okay. Everything was okay.

Yes, Viola changed everything. Many things were made harder because we chose to let her live, but you know what I have learned about life? If it wasn’t an unplanned pregnancy it simply would have been something else.

I could have relieved my fear of ruining my new husband’s life, never told him I was pregnant and never worried that he was mad at me, I never would have had to swallow my pride and tell friends and family through tears of embarrassment that all of our plans were out the window, I could have started school again, I could have maybe even graduated, I could have gone on more trips, made more money, gone to more parties.

But I kept my baby and that has made all of the difference.

I don’t know what my #shoutyourabortion would have been, but if you choose death for your baby/clump-of-cells rather than life, you will never know what your #shoutyourbirth would be. Mine is this,

My four year old just used “suspicious” correctly in a sentence. I am rockin’ this mom thing. #shoutyourbirth

“It is poverty to decide a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” ~Mother Teresabirth

Trying Again

I have decided to go ahead and make another attempt at blogging. Every time I tell someone how much writing has always meant to me and how much I really want to start writing again they all say the same thing, “You should write a blog!” I always give some halfhearted excuse,

“I don’t have any set area of interest.”

“It is hard for me to put the things I care about out there for other people to judge.”

“Everything I have strong opinions on are highly controversial and I don’t want to lose friends!”

“My life is defined by my family. My family are also Facebook friends…sooo….”

“I am busy. I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a 2 month old.”

They are all valid excuses, each contributing to the biggest factor, which is sheer laziness, of course.

I would so much rather snuggle up next to Tanner at the end of the day and binge on Netflix. During my free moments during the day I like to do things like eat lunch, go to the bathroom, have a good cry. You know, the usual mom of toddlers stuff.

But anything I love to do is worth doing if I really love it, right?

I would feel more embarrassed about all of these confessions, but I am not alone. I think most of my Facebook friends have published a a couple blog posts and then quietly just stopped. So I am in good company.

But I really want to do it this time!

An End

I have always hated this apartment; from the seemingly shrinking square footage to our pothead neighbors hot-boxing us during the most nauseous weeks of my pregnancy with Daphne. From the word go we have been plotting our exit. It has taken us two and a half years to be able to escape neighbors that ditch their half-eaten water melon rinds at our door step and litter the grassy areas with ant infested snack packs and Gatorade bottles. We move on Saturday and I am so looking forward to a life free of quarterly inspections timed perfectly to wake up my napping babies.

I am really busy looking forward.

I am so excited about the next step; moving to our ideal city, buying our first home, getting to paint my walls for the first time in my married life. I found out on Friday I was moving in a week, when earlier plans had us waiting until March. So with a week to organize, clean, prepare, and pack I have been overwhelmed and full of happy stress.  Maybe that is why it just dawned on me today that as we embark on a new beginning, this is the end of an enormous part of my life.

Viola took her first steps on this floor. I babysat so many wonderful kids in this microscopic living room, we had so many lovely dinners with friends and family in this apartment, this is where I was filled with joy when I found out I was pregnant, and where I mourned the loss of a baby I will never meet. Viola said her first words to me here. She has puked on this carpet more times than our landlords would ever care to know. This is where I learned I was pregnant with little Daphne and the home we brought her to from the hospital. This is where both of my girls celebrated their first Christmases.  I learned my love of baking with this oven and the infinite nature of laundry with these machines.

Two and a half years of life has been lived within these walls. As excited as I am to lock that door for the final time, there were always be a special place in my heart for this itty-bitty, poorly built apartment.