I Love You Too

I’m not a perfect mother. I know, I know. I was just as shocked to learn that as you are.

The truth is that I’m in great company because none of us are perfect mothers. We all have flaws, big or small or both. We all have ways in which we believe we could do better, even when the reality is that we’re doing our very best.

The trouble is that I often beat myself up for my imperfections. The times I yell too much or am too rash with my responses to their tiny questions eat away at me. How often have I let my annoyance at their insistence that everything be done their way or right that minute no matter what else is going on in the world shine through and am I doing it so often that eventually they’ll just give up trying to get my attention?

Am I shutting them down when I should be lifting them up? Do I listen to the small things they have to say often enough so that one day down the road they’ll want to tell me the big things?

Am I doing okay? This mothering thing? Am I doing it okay?

Those are the thoughts that nag me and lead me to wonder, nearly 6 years later, if I’m loving them enough. If I’m showing that love enough for them to know that no matter what kind of moment I’m having, my heart beats for them.

One day Emma snuggled into me and she said “I love you too, Mama.” I thought “how adorable is that!?!” Because it was adorable. She knows how to give and receive love and she freely shares her love with me. This is still how Emma tells me she loves me, but today I had a little revelation. That extra three letter word thrown into her proclamation suddenly meant just a little bit more.

She’s not saying “I love you.” She’s saying “I love you too.”

Does she know what she’s saying and how it’s not the normal order for swapping declarations of love? No, probably not, but somewhere in my heart, that little word “too” is soothing.

She knows I love her. She’s confident in that. She understands my love for her runs so deeply that I don’t even have to say “I love you” first for her to know it’s the truth.

Despite my faults, I’m doing this mothering thing okay.

I love her and she loves me too.

Diary of Depression

Monday: Wow. These kids are live wires this morning. I know I just woke up but I really want to go back to sleep. Is it too soon to go back to sleep? Maybe I’ll feel better after yoga. I wish this gym had a different yoga class, or that there were some familiar faces in here or a familiar instructor. Do I really suck if I just go to sleep while Joshua plays video games? Yeah, that’s totally shitty parenting and I shouldn’t do it. I should be engaging him, talking to him. Making him read or do flashcards or something. Not just plugging him into a tv. He’ll be back at school tomorrow and then I’ll take a nap. 

Tuesday (morning)Ugh. We overslept. Why can’t I just get out of bed when the alarm goes off in the morning? Why do I lay there and think that I won’t fall back to sleep? I do this all the time and at some point it’s like I’d learn that’s a dumb thing I’m doing and stop doing it. Where did all this traffic…oh right. First day back to school. God, is everyone running late? What is this? Please don’t let Emma cling to me at school drop off this morning. I don’t know if my skin can handle it. Man, my head hurts. I should shower when I get to the house. Shower and put on clothes and makeup and dry my hair and then I’ll feel better. Nah, I think I’ll just take a nap.

Tuesday (evening): Why did I think it was a good idea to bring Emma to the gym and feed her dinner here? And why was I so stupid to think scheduling Joshua’s swim lesson for 5:30 was okay? Can this child seriously not just sit in a chair and eat some food? What in the world have I done to screw her up so greatly and why is she so maddeningly wild? And why are all these people staring at me? Why I can’t I control this child? Man, I really just want to go to sleep.

Wednesday: Did I shower on Monday? Yesterday? Why can’t I remember when I showered? Do I smell? I should probably put on a bra. Where is my bra? And how many days in a row have I worn this hoodie? Why is the sun so bright outside the window? It’s too bright, but if I close my eyes I’m going to fall asleep again. But my head hurts and maybe closing my eyes for a minute will help it go away. Maybe sleep won’t be such a bad thing. I’ll just sleep for half an hour and then go get the kids. Sleep is probably better for me than taking a shower.

ThursdayWow. I got a decent night’s sleep last night and I actually feel okay this morning. For now. But these kids are shrieking and fighting and why do they have to do that? How do I get them to get along with each other and not fight all the time? I should probably write something. It’s been a while. I’m definitely going to shower today. If I do nothing else, I have to do that. I’ll do it after I get back from picking up the kids. Right now I’m going to lay here and do nothing.

Friday: I should text Dan and tell him that I need a reason to shower and do my hair and makeup this weekend. And wear a bra. Maybe that will get me out of this…whatever it is. I just need a solid reason to pull my shit together. Otherwise, I probably won’t.

People think depression is this deep sense of sadness. Mine is mostly a sense of abject failure. I can’t get the kids to behave. I’m probably not really welcome at this yoga class where I know no one and no one knows me but they all know or at least recognize each other but I’m the outsider and is that person staring at me? I can’t pull it together to put on a bra in the morning, much less shower regularly or do anything to make myself feel better, so I just throw on a hoodie, put my hair in a top knot, and tell myself it’s frumpy chic.

I’m just…empty.

It’s like being stuck in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story when Atreyu loses his horse because Artax just can’t muster up enough of a damn to get himself out of the mud. And it doesn’t matter that Atreyu is crying and hoping Artax will just get his horse shit together and climb out. Artax just…can’t.

Last week I just couldn’t. I could see that I needed to do something, anything, to break the rut and climb out of the mud, but I just couldn’t do anything except sleep.

I’m better now. I think. On the upswing, at least, but last week was really hard, for no reason I can determine. While the diary up there isn’t something I actually wrote last week, I definitely found myself just sort of stuck and feeling…nothing. That’s what depression is for me.

It’s nothing.

It’s not all the time, 24-7 nothingness in one of those periods. I’m not overwhelmingly unhappy. In fact, I laugh and experience joy and plenty of other positive human emotions, but there’s this nagging emptiness in the background, coupled with a desire to hibernate until it passes.

But life goes on and so do I and eventually the light in the windows is welcome instead of too bright.

Listen To Your Mother, Atlanta! (And Audition For Our Show!)

Just in case we thought I didn’t have enough to keep me busy this year, Listen To Your Mother season is in FULL SWING! My co-producer Jana and I are up to our elbows in planning, our date is set, (April 25! Mark your calendars!), and all we need now is a few good stories to share.

That’s where you, my fine Atlanta readers, come in.

We need YOU. And your stories. Your voice matters.

I believe in the power of storytelling. Stories are our history and sharing them with one another is how we bridge divides between race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and the debate of red vs. white wine. (Answer: Both. Of course.)

Listen To Your Mother is oral tradition in the 21st century with stories focused specifically on motherhood and its many facets. It’s funny and messy and it’s sad and amazing. Motherhood is life.

If you live in or around the Atlanta area and want to audition to share your story on our stage, we would love to have you.

Help us give motherhood a microphone in 2015.

Cancelling Christmas (And Other Dumb Stuff)

I started writing this post in my head yesterday after having half a box of Milk Duds for breakfast. I was two candy canes and a cup of chocolate syrup away from being Buddy the Elf’s newest friend when I saw a thing on Facebook that sent that sugar surging through my system.

The picture, shared by a radio station, was from someone’s Facebook post where she chastised other parents planning to give their children big ticket items from Santa because that might hurt the feelings of those children who did not get big ticket items from Santa. There’s some good will in there somewhere, I think, but that’s…illogical. I’ll get to it in a minute.

Pondering that picture sparked a few more things I think are dumb.

1. Cancelling Christmas Because Your Kids Aren’t Grateful

I listened to an entire radio segment on this one. If you have reached the point of cancelling Christmas because your kids aren’t grateful, grab the nearest newspaper, roll it up, and whack yourself on the head with it. You haven’t been teaching gratefulness throughout the year and now you’re taking out what is your frustration with yourself on your children.

I’m not saying they don’t deserve to learn a lesson here, but I’m saying that cancelling Christmas probably isn’t going to teach them said lesson.

Being grateful, spreading good will and kindness, helping others who are less fortunate, those are things we should be doing all year long. Whenever opportunities to do so present themselves, help. Have those conversations with your children about the many blessings in their life and show gratitude in your own actions all throughout the year.

Don’t wait until Christmas to teach being thankful for what you have because others don’t have the same things. It’s too late. The proverbial boat has sailed.

2. Chastising Other Parents Who “Lie To Their Children” 

While this is not true for every parent who disagrees with playing up the Santa myth, as there are plenty of y’all who are out there like “meh, just don’t want to do it,” and also those who are still unsure how it’ll all play out since their kids are pre-Santa age, there’s also a heaping dose of superiority that smacks out of some peoples’ mouths every time they utter the phrase “well, WE don’t BELIEVE in lying to OUR children” or any iterations thereof.

Show me a single parent who, when the first Christmas twinkles begin to appear, jumps for joy shouting “OH! HOORAY! IT’S TIME TO LIE TO THE CHILDREN!” Some parents just don’t see Santa as lying to their children. Some parents just want to celebrate the magic of Santa Claus with their kids because it’s fun or they have fond childhood memories of the things their parents did or it’s really just as simple as they do what they want.

You don’t “lie to your children.” Okay, well, good…for you! Because they are your children. And these children are my children and there is room enough in the world for all of our celebrations, mythical fat man and his flying reindeer or no.

Why is Santa Claus and what others do with him in their own homes such a big deal to so many people? When in the history of Santa Claus have we ever cared this much. (Newsflash: It’s all social media’s fault.)

3. Complaining About the Over-Commercialization of the Holiday

Y’all, it’s no secret that Christmas (and every other holiday, essential and non) has grown increasingly more and more commercial. Blame advertising. Blame marketing. Blame movies. Blame society. We are a consumer culture. That’s not changing any time soon. But it’s sort of pointless to do all of your complaining about this at Christmas. (If you’re the kind of rallies against this all year, I salute you.)

Why? Because for some families, Christmas is the only time they really buy gifts for their kids. Don’t make them feel bad about that in your efforts to do what you deem to be good.

Some families buy gifts for their kids throughout the year, and they aren’t called gifts. They’re called “I want this”-es. Kid sees a toy, wants it, parent says “okay.” (I think probably these children and families would overlap with the families from #1 in a Venn diagram.)

Other families say “not right now” or “we’ll save up for it.” And they do. Then Christmas morning rolls around and all the things they’ve been saving up for appear under the tree, from Santa or not from Santa–no judging–and others look at that sort of haul and click their tongues in disgust and go “Ugh. Consumerist culture is SO. GREEDY.” (To which I go, “ugh, two lumps of coal for you.”)

Which brings me back to the original meme:

4. Telling Other Parents They’re Doing Celebrating Wrong

That’s what struck me about the image I saw on Facebook yesterday. It said, essentially, if you give your kid a big present from Santa instead of from yourself, another kid who didn’t get a big gift from Santa, or didn’t get a gift from Santa at all, will internalize that and wonder what’s so wrong with them that Santa didn’t stop there. Or that Santa isn’t an equal opportunity gift giver and it’s not fair and society will crumble.

I have to call bullshit on that one. They WILL do that (probably) if YOU are talking about it.

I get the sentiment. I do. But how about we teach our kids not to be bragging braggers instead of telling other people not to give their kids big presents. Or small presents. Or whatever.

If you’re teaching thankfulness and gratefulness and kindness and any other -nesses except jerkiness, cool your shorts. You’re doing your job and your kid is going to be fine. You have no idea what those other parents might have done to afford that present, how long they saved, whether it was purchased with a bonus or by a grandparent, and frankly, it’s not your business.

Stop caring so much what other people think and your kids will follow suit, which is really the bottom line in all of this.

Do what works for your family. Stop passing judgment on others. Take some of the time you spend judging the choices of other people and go sing some carols at a hospital or bake a cake for the neighbor or curl up on the couch and what It’s a Wonderful Life for the 400th time.

Peace on Earth, guys.

Now can someone pass me a candy cane? My sugar-to-blood ratio is getting out of whack.

Start to Stop Smoking Cessation at CVS

My dad would have been 49 this month. When his birthday rolled around, I thought about how there are days when I really wish he were here to see the kids, to be a familiar presence. To call me “kiddo” one more time.

He died of a massive heart attack in August 2013. We’ve been without him for almost a year and a half now, and while it gets easier, when I think about the circumstances surrounding his death, I can’t help but get a little angry and a lot sad.

His heart attack was caused by a perfect storm of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight. But my dad was aso a smoker. A heavy smoker. A cigarette every 12 minutes smoker.

We nagged and pleaded and nagged some more for him to stop. We coughed incessantly and obnoxiously whenever he lit up. We complained about the smell. But he was addicted. He would never have admitted that, but he was.

He tried to stop at least a handful of times, cold turkey, with medication, just cutting back on how many. He started smoking outside and we thought maybe the freezing cold January air would make him quit. It didn’t. Nothing did.

When he had his heart attack, one of the possible scenarios was for him to be placed on the transplant list where he would await a donor heart. While that would not have worked because his heart was too damaged by the heart attack, he wouldn’t have been allowed on the list anyway, and the number one reason why was because he was a lifelong smoker.

Because of his smoking addiction, he wouldn’t have been eligible for placement on the transplant list had he been strong enough to make it that far. He would have had to live with a portable bypass machine and be smoke free for an entire calendar year before being placed on the list, and then he would have had to wait for a heart. Chances are good he wouldn’t have made it that long, but that wait wouldn’t have been so daunting if he hadn’t been a smoker.

There aren’t a lot of health care related companies who are in the business of helping people stop smoking, but CVS is one of those companies. In 2014, CVS stopped selling tobacco and all tobacco-related products in ALL of its stores. Then it launched Minute Clinic smoking cessation programs in each of its stores.

(Did you know that CVS has vowed to have a Minute Clinic within 10 miles of every residence? That’s pretty fantastic, right?)

The Start to Stop smoking cessation program includes individualized counseling, ongoing coaching to help quitters quit,  and nicotine-replacement when applicable. (There’s also a weight loss counseling program, which sounds pretty great, too.)

Per the Centers for Disease Control, smokers who seek help in trying to quit are two to three times more likely to succeed than those who go it alone, as my dad always did. In just 24 hours after quitting, a person’s risk of heart attack starts to diminish, and in 1 year the risk of heart disease becomes half that of a smoker.

I wish my dad had made different choices while he were living, but since he didn’t, all I can do now is spread the story of his life and how we would probably have him here today if he had taken his health more seriously. Companies like CVS are helping to do that.

They’re helping people make changes for life.

This post was written as part of a CVS campaign to promote their Start to Stop smoking cessaion program and #HealthYourself initiatives. My story is my own and if sharing it helps one person quit smoking for good, I’m more than willing to tell it.

Where I live. What I live for.