Keep Paddling

August 5th was my 21st wedding anniversary.  My son turns 21 in January.  Do the math.  Clearly, I didn’t pay attention in 6th grade health class. I was probably making a paper fortune teller.  It turns out I wouldn’t marry Kirk Cameron. That lapse in judgement lead to a shotgun wedding and a trip to a recruiting station. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad yesterday. My heart was heavy.  There aren’t enough fillers in the world to fix the bags under my eyes.  The sorrow, in part, comes from mourning the loss of what I expected my life to be.  You plan to marry a prince, buy a mansion and live happily ever after. You don’t anticipate starting over in your 40s and having the skin under your arm wave at a passerby faster then your hand.

I have to be honest, I didn’t plan on having kids. I was going to take over for Joan Lunden on Good Morning America.  I took a detour when my life became an after-school special. It turned out to be the greatest blessing of my life.  I was meant to be a mom.  They bring me more joy than any job could.  There is one thing in this life I am certain of – I am a devoted, badass mother.  Besides loving and supporting my children – I have taken my kids on countless vacations, MLB games, NBA games, NFL games, broadway shows, etc.  Remember when we could actually do those things? I wanted to make sure they had happy childhood memories. Now,  they are older and too busy building digital worlds, recording videos doing viral dances for spies in China and watching people play PS4 games they own and could be playing themselves. So, I am going on few adventures on my own.  I decided to take up kayaking.   I went for the first time about a month ago.  It was calming, almost completely serene.  Almost. I was paddling down the Genesee River.  It is green.

I went on another voyage last week. This time the water was a tad choppier.  It required way more energy to paddle.  So, I took a moment to catch my breath. That is when the kayak started drifting sideways toward the brush along the banks.  I paddled faster than a politician when caught in a lie. It was too late.

I ducked and braced for impact – dropping the oar in the water! A branch got stuck in my hair as the kayak rocked back and forth.  I managed to steady the kayak and get untangled. After I was done hyperventilating …. I laughed. A divorce, a pandemic and a Kayak accident – I hit the trifecta.  Divorce is like kayaking. One day you are optimistic and calm. The next day there are rough waters and you don’t know if you will make it to shore. The only thing you can do is keep paddling.

 

 

Begin Again

I started this blog years ago after seeing women post about the beauty of pregnancies and joy of motherhood. I could relate to some things, but most of the pieces made me feel bad about myself. I hated being pregnant. The delivery wasn’t magical and it turns out an episiotomy isn’t fun. Of course, I fell in love with my children the moment I laid on eyes on them. It’s a love you cannot describe. They are my world. That being said, the mom posting about her perfect trip to Disney World, picking apples and sewing curtains for her child’s room – wasn’t exactly mimicking my life. Motherhood is hard. I wanted to tell the truth about having to drag a child kicking and screaming out of a mall because I wouldn’t let him eat a piece of a pretzel a stranger dropped on the floor. (For those reading this in a few years – malls were places we used to shop.) Disney wasn’t magical. I spent the day sweating while my child whined about waiting in line, being thirsty and because his sibling had the nerve to breathe. I was the mom who forgot to send an item for her child to present at show-n-tell or confused field trip dates when I was supposed to chaperone.

I enjoyed writing. It was cathartic. I thought I was good at it. A local radio host, Tony Infantino, enjoyed my posts and invited me to come in once a week to do a segment on his morning show. I was feeling good about myself, confident. Then, the insults started drowning out every compliment I received.

“You’re wasting your time.”

“This blog is not good.”

“You’re embarrassing yourself.”

I kept going for awhile – writing fewer and fewer posts. I would get a pit in my stomach every time I hit publish.

“You sound really stupid.”

“You have no class.”

“Nobody cares what you have to say.”

Then, I logged out for good. People would ask me why I stopped writing and I would make excuses about being too busy. It was just one of many things I gave up over the years. I wrote several children’s books. I received a few rejection letters in the mail. J.K Rowling’s pitch for Harry Potter was rejected 12 times. I kept filling out envelopes. (For those reading this a few years from now – we needed envelopes to send letters to other people. A letter was an email written on paper with a pen.) I stopped submitting my books to publishing houses when I was told they weren’t worth printing.

“You’re a joke.”

It is going to take a long time to get my confidence back, but I am going to write again. I am going to document my journey because I have nothing to be ashamed of. Divorce is hard. The sorrow is, at times, overwhelming.  It feels like you are grieving a death. There are days when I have to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other. But truth be told, the way I was living was even more difficult. I may ramble. I may misuse the words effect and affect from time to time. Actually, that won’t happen. When in doubt I always choose a different word.

I am going to start living the way I want my children to. I  constantly remind them how smart, kind and funny they are. I tell them regularly to go after their dream even when it seems out of reach. Yet, I allowed someone to make me feel inferior. I’m not looking for pity. I am writing for the woman I would have been had I gone down another path. I am writing for those being threatened they will lose everything. Interesting thing about divorce court – you can be an abuser and it’s okay. “There is a formula.” However, talking about being abused is frowned upon. “A judge may hold that against you!”  I am writing for the women who were torn down behind closed doors, called crazy to cover it up and told nobody would believe them. I am writing for the ones who weren’t believed.  I can’t promise I will have anything profound to say. Hell, there will be days when it may be utter nonsense or videos that made me laugh, but I am going to write because it is time to begin again.

Covid-19 Homeschooling 101

It feels like a year has passed since schools were shut down and my children began virtual learning. Each week teachers send a report. It has a long list of assignments your child should have completed by Friday. If scrolling through Facebook didn’t make you feel like an inferior parent before, the Karens have a new trick up their sleeves. They are determined to be the greatest homeschooling mom ever. They have busted out the white board, enforce strict schedules and lunchtime includes sandwiches cut into shapes. Their children are even doing extra credit. My daughter has learned how to sign “Basic Bitch” from a clip on Tik Tok.

I applaud teachers for their hard work during this pandemic, but I don’t care what score my children get on their assignments or quizzes. I am more concerned about their mental health. We don’t set alarms. When they wake up, I encourage them to go outside to play basketball or ride their longboard before doing schoolwork. They are dealing with as much anxiety and stress as adults. I don’t want to hear what great-grandma went through. One person’s hardship doesn’t negate another.

My daughter is 10-years-old and isn’t allowed to go near her grandparents because they are at-risk for serious illness or death if infected by the coronavirus. Even a trip through a drive thru for ice cream is different. Seeing every worker sporting a face mask is surreal. My daughter made the observation, “I cant tell if anyone is smiling.”

My oldest son was in his first year at college. He was given a few days to gather his things and move back home in the middle of the semester. On a positive note, I sent him to school with a tote of cleaning supplies. He brought them home unopened. I have never been happier that college students are slobs. He had Lysol spray, cleaner and paper towels. It was like being handed a winning lottery ticket.

My middle child is missing his travel basketball season. He lives for this sport. It has given him confidence and joy. Plus, as we speak, he is outgrowing the overpriced Lebron Nike sneakers he needed for games. I know, that is a first world problem. Save your angry emails for the person who doesn’t agree with your politics on Facebook. He also turned 13 under quarantine. I was grateful some of his teammates drove by to wish him a Happy Birthday.

 

 

My children are learning how to ration toilet paper. They ask if stores will shut down and, when this began, wondered if we would have enough food. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to avoid reports of death and job loss. I can’t tell them when it will be over. Nobody has any real answers. So, I don’t care if my son can solve the problem -2n (-8n-10) -6 (-107-3) or graph out how much sodium Jimmy consumes if he eats 10 pretzels. Jimmy needs to look at the back of the damn bag. I will be content if my children get a passing grade this semester. They are living a future social studies lesson. That is enough.

Leather Tuscadero

I ordered a pair of pleather pants. I don’t think I’m having a mid-life crisis. That would require a Corvette and gold chain. Perhaps, it was just a lapse in judgement. They are the “in thing.” I don’t know who decides what is trendy from season to season. Based on what I see in magazines, it must be dictated by a woman whose waist is smaller than my thigh or a man behind a curtain like the Wizard of Oz.  I would like a word with either one.  I have a bone to pick over the “cold shoulder” trend.  I get that, at my age, the sexiest thing on my body may be my shoulders. My collarbone is also known to drive men wild. That being said, I don’t want to wear a shirt that looks like it was eaten by a moth. I decide if or when I want to show off my shoulders.  Plus, I’m paying for an entire shirt. I want that material back.

When I visited New York City over the holiday there was a woman every few blocks wearing leather or pleather pants. It’s very difficult to tell the difference. Pleather has come a long way since the days when I rocked a pair with a Michael Jackson shirt. I don’t want to brag, but I had a shirt with Michael Jackson’s face on the front and my name on the back. Anyway, the women in Manhattan looked elegant. I was giddy when I pulled the package from the mailbox. As I walked back to the house I envisioned myself strutting down the street. I don’t usually walk in the street because that would be dangerous, but this is a fantasy.  Stick with me. Heads would turn, other women would stare in admiration, wishing they could be a trendsetter, too.  I did a double take when I took the pants out of the package. They looked small. I mean, really small.  I thought maybe I ordered the wrong pair.  Nope, that was my size.  Let’s just say there was nothing graceful about me trying to get those suckers on.  Imagine a sausage casing. Imagine putting a sleeping bag inside the sausage casing. I was sweating profusely and considered calling 911 for help to get them off.  There wasn’t a shirt in the world that could hide that hot mess.  At least that is how I saw it. We will never know what anyone else thinks.  Add it to the great mysteries of the world – like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Those pants are going right back to the store.

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Competition is not always a good thing

There it was. Her photo. She is prettier than me, I thought.  She had a great smile. “Damn it,” I whispered as I scrolled through her Facebook profile. I bet she had braces.  She could be a toothpaste model. My teeth slant and are stained the color of my favorite latte. I heard she was smart, funny and some sort of an artist.

She was an artist alright. She could make a masterpiece out of an Etch A Sketch. There was a sketch of The Joker, Superman and even the Pope. The only thing I ever managed to create on that thing was a box with uneven lines. I can barely draw a stick finger with a pencil and paper. It must take great patience to draw on an Etch A Sketch.  Fantastic! She has me beat in that category, too. I lose my mind after 5 minutes with an 11-year-old and Common Core math.  I didn’t know this woman, but I disliked her.  After all, she was my competition.

Her name is Shea.  She and I were up for a job as the co-host of a local morning show on a country station. I don’t own a cowboy hat or know the first thing about line dancing. I did have a weird obsession with Kenny Rogers as a kid. At 9-years-old I had a poster on my wall of a gray haired man next to a pinup of Thomas C. Howell and Ricky Schroeder.  My grandmother listened to Conway Twitty on her 8-track cassette player. It was the size of an office chair with multi-color lights that flickered to the beat. I hated the music, but was mesmerized with the technology. It doesn’t seem so impressive now. That’s the extent of my country music resume. Still, I really wanted this job.  I needed this job.  I had worked part-time in television for over a decade to raise my children. I chose not to send them to daycare. Well, they are all in school now. My life felt stagnate.  I longed for change, financial independence and a creative outlet that didn’t involve crayons and a placemat at a chain restaurant.

I dabbled in radio here and there, but this would be the big break I needed.  I auditioned.  Shea auditioned.  Then, I got an offer from another company and dropped out of the race.  Shea didn’t get that job. Another woman landed the gig.  I don’t know where Shea ended up. Honestly, I never thought of her again until today.  I was scrolling through Facebook and there it was. Her photo.  That perfect smile. My heart dropped when I read the caption. Shea had committed suicide.  I am sad for her family and friends. It also saddens me that I was rooting against her.  Yes, that is natural because she was my competition. But I sunk deeper than that. I was a caddy bitch – not directly to her – we never met or shared mutual friends, but that doesn’t make a difference to me now. Women who are insecure or jealous often resort to attacking others. Instead, we should be building each other up and admiring one another’s strengths. It turns out, Shea wasn’t that much different than me.  I, too, struggled with depression in my life. Maybe she needed that job as much as I did. Maybe she looked at her photo and focused on imperfections only she saw.  Based on the social media posts I have read thus far …. Shea didn’t realize how many people were rooting for her – in life – not to get a job that seems so insignificant now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

You can read more about Shea Baker here:  Kentucky.com

 

 

 

Side Effects and Benefits

When I was a teenager we sunbathed while lathered in baby oil.  I don’t think we ever applied sunscreen. We basically fried our bodies and nobody thought it was a bad idea. I also thought putting lemon juice in my hair would give me golden blonde locks.  Instead, I looked like a tomato and smelled like Pine sol.  I don’t need photos to remember those days. The wrinkles on my forehead are a constant reminder.  I’ve had an injection or two and have purchased enough anti-aging face cream to fill a small pool. Recently, a friend suggested I try a dermal-roller. What is that you ask?  It’s a small rolling pin with little needles that you slowly drag across your face.

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That sounded so awful that it must work, right? I logged on to amazon prime and ordered that sucker with one click.  The “Buy it Now” feature is very dangerous.  When you are sleep deprived leather pants seem like a good idea. They are never a good idea. The dermal-roller arrived the next day. I have warned my children not to play with knives or run with scissors, but I ran upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom to run needles ACROSS MY FACE.  It felt like you would expect it to feel… awful.  The directions say begin by rolling 4-8 times across in a horizontal, vertical and diagonal pattern. One of the many precautions is no to use the derma roller without supervision or permission from a trained professional. Perhaps, if you need a trained professional to use this tool, don’t sell it for $19.99 on the internet. I am a rebel. I once put a bag of popcorn in the microwave with “This Side Up”  facing down. So, I went ahead without seeking assistance.

Afterward, my face looked like you would expect it to after running needles ACROSS YOUR FACE. I was slightly concerned that the redness would not subside by morning.  Luckily, it did.  My skin did not look any younger. According to the brochure, this is a long-term healing method. It takes weeks to see results.  I will take their word for it and stick to a nice filter or have someone take my photo while standing on the top rung of a ladder. At least I have a new scare tactic for my children the next time they complain about having to wear sunblock. “Do you want needles dragged across your face when you are older? No? Then, put it on!”

In a carnival, of sights to see

Carnivals are neat. Rides that travel at a high rate of speed, extreme heights or both are set up and operated by a person who took a training course. (Coincidentally, that is all that is required to operate a jet ski.) One doesn’t get a degree in Engineering to take a gig as a carny.  In many states 16 is considered an appropriate age to work as an amusement park ride operator. My son, at 16-years-old, couldn’t remember to put on deodorant. There was a 50/50 chance that he would brush his teeth on any given day. Yet, a teen can monitor the Gravitron? That being said we gleefully put our children on board.  We went to a carnival this summer on a 90 degree day.  What could be more fun than spending a small fortune on ride tickets, sweating profusely and risking a footborne illness to enjoy a fried waffle?

The fun started on the sleigh ride.  It was initially moving at a snails pace. Then, the carnie put that sucker in overdrive.  I had mixed emotions.  I was slightly fearful this thing was about to go off the rails.  On the other hand, the facial expressions on the riders, my children included, were meme worthy. I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh. Everyone survived.  We piled back into the minivan and headed home. I patted myself on the back for being mom of the year until my children started screaming. It turns out it’s not a good idea to drink a milkshake before going on the Gravitron. My son’s friend was puking! No, my first instinct wasn’t about the child’s well being. It was about the carpet in my vehicle and the stench that would linger. Thankfully, there was a large cup in the backseat and this kid had the wherewithal to blow chunks in it.  For once, it paid for my children to leave their garbage behind. They are usually trying to hand me garbage, while I’m driving. I could be swerving to avoid a collision and my children would still shout, “Mom, what do I do with this?” They never know what to do with their garbage. They can figure out any electronic device put in front of them, but are We can walk into a place I have never been before and my children will ask me where to find the garbage can. I don’t have garbage radar or a map of cans at every location we visit. I don’t want to carry their garbage in my pocket or put it in my purse. I will, however, allow a cup to remain in the backseat the next time we visit a carnival.

The Graduate

My oldest son graduated from high school over the weekend.  The day snuck up on me. It turns out 18 years isn’t long enough to prepare for a milestone of this magnitude.  When you’re a parent the days are long and nights are short. It seems you are always busy. When you have a newborn you long for the days when he can sit-up and sleep through the night.  Then, you tell yourself parenting will get easier when he can communicate and walk. It doesn’t. When you are caught in the middle of Target with a toddler having a temper tantrum you long for the days when he will go to kindergarten. Getting your child to do homework becomes a daily battle. Throughout the years you will will taxi that kid to games and clubs. The minute you walk through the door and take your shoes off he will call for a ride home. Then, he gets his driver’s license.  He spends a lot of time with his friends or girlfriend.The phone doesn’t ring as much. The house is a little quieter. Suddenly, you long for the sleepless nights, complaints and even a Common Core math worksheet here and there. You know there were plenty of good memories in between the chaos, but wonder if you enjoyed it as much as you should have. Did he?  The answer came before graduation when my son was presented with an award and gave a quick speech. “I want to thank my mom for always being there for me….even today when I told her 15 minutes ago about this award ceremony.”

 

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Right in the Trash!

One more day. I only have to pack school lunches for one more day. It seems like an easy task. How long could it possibly take to throw a few things in a lunchbox? This is where people chime in about how  I need to enjoy these moments while I can. Time goes by so fast. I can hate packing lunches and love my child at the same time. There is something about cutting the crust off bread at 4 a.m. that can send one into a psychotic rage.   I accidentally bought American cheese last week. Do you remember the scene in “Sleeping With the Enemy” when Julia Roberts realizes the cans are misaligned? That was the level of panic I had when I realized I wouldn’t have “white cheese” to put on my daughter’s sandwich. What the hell happened to me? I am afraid of an 8-year-old. A friend once said “If she is hungry enough she will eat it.” No, she won’t.  It will go right in the trash. Then, she will want a snack the second she walks in the door instead of two seconds after she walks in the door. What’s the difference between packing a lunch and making it at home? That’s a good question. It’s one of the great mysteries of the world.

The time I will save packing lunches will be used sorting through papers. Every year my child brings home enough worksheets, workbooks, artwork, etc. to fill a swimming pool. My kid isn’t going to finish the last six pages of the math workbook. It’s hard enough to get my children to do homework during the school year.  Plus, because of the Common Core curriculum I don’t even know how to answer the problems. I miss the good old days when you could solve a problem without 100 steps. I could also do without you sending home every piece of paper they touched during the year.  Not all artwork is created equal. They aren’t all winners. What do you expect me to do with a half finished coloring sheet of a squirrel? Should I hang their construction paper diagram of a plant on my wall? I don’t want the name tag that hung on their desk.  This person grew in my uterus and gave me stretch marks for days. I will never forget his or her name.  Listen, I barely have enough room in my house for their shoes which are actually a necessity.  No matter how many times I organize the footwear it inevitably ends up in a pile in the corner of the room. These kids come out of the building hunched over trying to carry their weight in garbage.  So, let’s cut out the middle man – which is me – and get rid of this stuff at school.  Recycle it. Throw it away. I don’t care.