By the time this quart of milk expires, I will be heading home from a trip to Mexico with my husband—just the two of us.

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This has never happened before. I mean, we have been to Chicago or Nashville, TN for the weekend, but we have never been away alone—without the kids. I can’t wait.

Part of why this has never happened is my fault. I have not flown on an airplane since October 2001.

We flew all the time when I was growing up; at least a few times a year. I didn’t “love” it, but I did it. And part of why I didn’t love it was, given the frequency, we had some pretty scary moments. Losing three engines over the ocean, flying in a tiny plane from Denver to Aspen in a snowstorm, an irate drunk passage…the list goes on and on. These experiences certainly contributed to my growing anxiety over flying.

Then, came adulthood and I was suddenly in charge of my own time and if I didn’t want to fly, I didn’t have to. And I didn’t, at least not very often. In October of 2011, shortly after 9-11, we flew down to see my dad in Miami. At that time, we had just one kid and combined with my normal flying anxiety, the anxiety of flying with a toddler put me over the edge.

And, it’s not crashing that I have anxiety over. I mean, sure, I worry about that sometimes, but that doesn’t drive my anxiety. What drives my anxiety are issues focused on control. Having a good flight experience in influenced by a number of factors and you—or me, the passenger—has almost no control over any of those factors.

I want to control what I want to bring. Over the years, I have actually become a very light packer, but that’s only because I have been given the freedom to chose. But when you fly, you have no choice—you must be a light packer. I like choice.

I want to control my own environment. You have no control on the plane. Okay, you might argue. You have that little vent thingy and a light. Shit, please sister. Dirty air, germy surfaces, nasty stains on carpets. It’s disgusting.

I want to control the company I keep. I want them to be interesting, chatty, not going to get airsick, not smelly, not an annoying whiny toddler. I don’t care what color, where they are from or how much they weigh. I just don’t want them to be mean or throw up.

I want to control the weather. I want to fly on perfect days. I want no turbulence, rain/snow delays, no high winds or that bumpy ride that always appears when you fly over the mountains. I want blue skies with great views.

I want to control the bathroom situation. I have extremely high standards for bathrooms and really don’t like using the bathroom in public if I can avoid it (although, I have gotten better about this over the years). Airplane bathrooms are the nastiest places on the planet. I will never be a member of the Mile-High Club because I would never put my exposed private parts on any surface in that area.

I want to control when we leave and when we get there—and I usually want to go straight there, not through Charlotte, Atlanta or Chicago, unless they are actually legitimately on the way. But, that is never the case when flying.

So, I would love flying if:

  • There were no limits on luggage.
  • I rode in my own little private cabin.
  • I rode in my own little private cabin.
  • We lived in a part of the country where weather was more consistent (instead of snow in October and thunderstorms in February).
  • I rode in my own little private cabin (with a private bathroom).
  • Airlines actually kept a schedule, and it jived with my schedule.

Most of this anxiety can be traced back to my fear of one thing: germs. Germs and vomit. I seriously have an issue with vomit. And, I know you’re all like, “oh, me too.” But, we are talking I have an issue of clinical proportions here. I will tell you about it someday. For now, just trust me that I am mostly afraid to fly because I am afraid of vomit. And germs. And germs in vomit.

Please don’t comment and share a story about a flight you were on where everyone was vomiting because the turbulence was so bad. Or the time you flew and had the stomach flu but had to get home for the holidays. PLEASE don’t do that.

I am going to do it. I am going to fly. I have to. I need to go away for a while—with my husband. And, soon, we need to go away with our kids; further away than I can stand to go in the car. By the time this milk expires, I will be on my way home and ready to write an entry about how I did it. With the help of lots and lots of Xanax.

New Doctor

Me: We are going to the new doctor today.

Sam: What’s his name?

Me: Her name.

Sam: Ah, it’s a lady again?!?

Me: Yes.

Sam: Why?

Me: Because most of the time I like girl doctors instead of boys. Do you not like girl doctors?

Sam: No, it’s fine. I will go until I am 16.

Me: Why 16?

Sam: Cause I don’t want her to see my big balls.

 

On Sex

Saturday I am cleaning up from breakfast and the kids are outside playing. Andy comes in the house and lifts his shirt up and shows me something on his chest. With a black Sharpie marker, someone has written the words On Sex.

I race outside and yell, “Who wrote on Andy?…who did it…?”

Sam appears with the marker in his hand and writing on his body and says, “I did.”

“Why would you write that,” I yelled. “What would make you write that on him?!? Do you know what you wrote? Why would you write that?!?!”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “Sam, what does that say?”

“It says Yes No,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Okay……well, you wrote it backwards…. and…. don’t write on your bodies with Sharpies.”

Here it is four days later

onsex

It’s amazing how those words can change the mood. And, even if you think you are not sorry—try saying it, sometimes you realize you actually are sorry.

You know how it is living in house with little people. They take everything of yours—even if you hide it. My favorite Pilot Precise V5 pens, which all now have bent tips. My scotch tape dispenser is almost always empty. Tape is something I actually have to buy at Costco because they use so much (and don’t ask me what for, because I don’t know). My scissors are always missing and my post-it notes never resemble the neat stack they come in but instead often look like a pile of cocktail napkins twisted in to a spire by a bartender. I can’t keep a pack of gum around to save my life. They find it, hunt it down and chew the whole damn thing at once.

It happens with everything around here. Nothing is sacred. There is nothing they won’t seek, use and destroy. Including my husband’s tools and lawn equipment.

The boys started a lawn business—actually my youngest started the business. I helped him create flyers and he passed them out to the neighbors. He will cut grass, pick up leaves, shovel snow, walk dogs, whatever. Once he gets a job, he decides if he needs help or not. If he does, he asks if any of his brothers are interested. If they are, he lets them in on the cut. If not, he goes at it alone.

He uses his dad’s equipment as his recent efforts of trying to talk us in to buying him a $5,250 stand-on mower have failed. One day, after a pretty lucrative job, Jeff went to do some work in our yard and tried to start his new blower. It wouldn’t start.

“Those damn kids fucked my brand new blower up and now it doesn’t work,” he says as he slams the garage door and walks in to my office.

I peer my head from around my giant monitor and said with what I am sure was a completely annoying smirk on my face, “Well, don’t let them use it.”IMG_3033

“If I don’t let them use it, then I am the dick.” He’s right. If he tells them no, then I give him shit, call him crabby and ask why he has to be so mean.

But, instead of admitting that, I argue further. “Then watch them when they use it.” I mean, he is after all, the guy that tells them they can’t start a fire outside without him. He helps them start a fire and then comes inside. “What about the fire?” I ask him. “It’s fine,” he says only for me to walk outside and see them putting sticks in the flames and pulling them out like torches and running around like natives. You know, those moments where you realize…okay, maybe a bit of adult supervision is in order after all.

“They don’t do that to your stuff,” he insists as he leaves the room.

“Are you fucking kidding me!?!?” I yell after him with no response.

Later, I pass him on my way upstairs to take a shower. “Sorry about your blower…” and before I could get the “but” out of my mouth to finish my statement, he interrupts me.

“That’s all I wanted to hear. The whole time.”

Ah, I realized. He just wanted me to acknowledge that it sucked. I didn’t need to defend them, fix it, or punish him. I just needed to acknowledge. Okay, then. I opted to not finish my thought and let this one die on a happy note. Interesting.

It happened again recently. I responded in a completely irrational way to the news that he had to attend some training that would alter his regular work schedule during one of my busiest times at work. I really lost it. I said mean things, hurtful things and wanted to make him feel bad for the shift in schedules.

After a few hours, I realized how ridiculous my response was and I found him simply to say, “I am sorry about the way I responded earlier.” There was a “but” in my head, but I left it where it was and kept the self-serving “but” to myself. And, the “but” wasn’t bad, but it was unnecessary extra words that added no meaning to the apology. Probably something like, “but I am really stressed out and worried about how I am going to get all of this work done.” Or could have been something like “but I can’t remember changes in your schedule; I need you to write them down.”

And even if they were valid points, they did not need to be connected to my apology. The “but” represents a totally separate conversation. My sorry is best left to stand on its own. I am sorry. That’s it. Whenever my kids apologize for something I ask them, “What does sorry mean?” and the answer they are supposed to give is sorry means I will change. It’s not enough to do something that hurts others and keep doing it because you can just say sorry. Sorry means you recognize there is something wrong and you will change it. Sorry is a challenge to yourself; but now I see “but” as a challenge to the other person—like a pushback on your apology.

I am working on my “buts” and my apologies. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I am also working on my butt.

I have never been skinny. I have always had hips. My mother used to tell me when I was a teenager that I would be grateful for those hips when it came time to have babies. I was grateful for them, indeed. I have always had giant ass calves—you know the kind where you can’t wear all those cute tall boots?

But, I was never what I would call overweight (well, except I was a chunky kid). I was always within normal range for my height—sometimes even slightly under. I weighed the least ever—like since before I was 13—when my third child was about 9 months old. I was still nursing, super active and restricted my calorie intake (in a not healthy way). I wrote down every single thing I put in my mouth, counted calories incessantly and weighed myself every day. And I know now that this had a lot to do with my obsessive-compulsive disorder: this (my weight) was my current obsession. Extreme for sure.

But then, I relaxed a bit and became a little more balanced in my approach. I played a lot of tennis—like five days a week—and worked out with a trainer two days a week. I weighed more than before, but I was fit. And I let some of the calorie-counting and constant weighing go.

And then…I opted to turn my life upside down to fulfill a lifelong dream and opened my little restaurant called Avec Moi. In a nutshell, I worked all the time and all of my extra money to pay for things like trainers and tennis was gone. I gave up working out, gave up tennis and gave up on taking care of myself—physically and emotionally, but this entry is about the physical.

Breakfast would consist of a cookie and coffee at the store. They were amazing cookies, my favorite, and I baked them B-I-G. I would start my day with two or three and usually dip in for some more by afternoon. No time to sit and eat a real meal. Lunch: usually something I ate standing up or some giant piece of cake. The irony here, folks, is that the whole point of Avec Moi was to serve healthy food to go. Yet here I was making incredibly unhealthy food choices. And I love healthy food. It’s not like I would have to learn to like Brussels sprouts, I already liked them—just was almost never choosing to eat them.

I started to gain weight; a lot of weight. It just didn’t feel like me, but I didn’t have time or the energy to do anything about it. I guess I did try a few times—joined Weight Watchers, had a “Biggest Loser” contest with some friends, started swimming or running early mornings, but none of that lasted.

And then, I got depressed. Depressed about how I felt about myself. Depressed about work, stressed about money—all the time. I had no energy. I would come home from work and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and drink wine. When it was time for bed, I would eat two Tums to hopefully stop any reflux that had started to develop again (I had it during a pregnancy or two).

It all seemed too overwhelming. The hole seemed so deep—the me hole, the Avec Moi hole, the loss of connection with my kids hole. And then, Avec Moi closed.

And I decided I would take back control. Of everything. Control of my life, my health, my relationships, my work. But first, I spent the next three months (through January) eating whatever I wanted—and it was goo—od.

In February, I started working with a trainer again. Twice a week at the Y. I slowly started running a bit here and there or walking—or even a hike in the park with the boys. And then. I started eating better. I started telling myself I wasn’t on a diet; I just didn’t want to eat foods anymore that didn’t make me feel good. I refocused back on clean healthy eating.

And, slowly it’s paying off. I still have a ways to go here, but in the past nine months, I have lost 20 pounds and 19 inches. This has resulted in a 3.3% reduction in my body fat percentage and me seeing signs of my old self again. Included in those 19 inches I have taken off are six inches from my thighs—each thigh! SIX inches. And, 5.5 inches from my “birthing hips.”

I started tennis again and forgot how much I loved to play tennis—and play hard. I run and have cut over two minutes off my mile time. I still work out with my trainer and she is amazing. It’s getting better. And I continue to work hard. Lifestyle changes, my friends, lifestyle.

It’s true. I know you were thinking this was some clever title to get you to read this blog, but it’s not. It’s just the truth. During one of our roughest patches of marriage, I think it was the very thing we were fighting about that saved us.

My husband and I have always—and still—primarily fight about three things:

1) Kids,

2) Money, and,

3) Sex.

These are the same three things that most married couples fight about. If you think about most of your arguments, you can boil them down until they fit in to one of those three categories.

We fought about sex a lot. In fact, we couldn’t even have a conversation about it—it always resulted in a fight. I had spent eight years straight pregnant with or nursing someone. And even after all of that, my youngest child was just two—I was still wiping multiple butts on a daily basis. I have told you before how much I enjoy those first few months but how the constant touching, hanging on and neediness of toddlers drove me crazy. Someone was always attached to some part of my body: nursing on a nipple, hanging on my leg, sitting in my lap, being carried on my hip, sleeping in a sling, or punching my thigh when they didn’t get their way.

Days often seemed long and like there was no end in sight—no silent refuge, no hole I could crawl in to spend time alone, no magic force-field I could turn on to keep them all away. And then…

Jeff would come home from work. He was gone all day and always got to have lunch out with his work friends (fine, except the days when he was too busy on a murder or sitting on a perimeter to mark out for lunch). I was home meeting the needs of others first (and back in those days, almost never met my own needs even very last—an important lesson for sure). I worked from home and even when we finally got a nanny, I was still here during the day and the default parent. He, from my perspective, was skating through this whole thing and was just another person whose needs I had to meet before my own. He would want to touch me. Kiss me hello, rub my back, stand and hug in the kitchen, grab my butt while I was cooking dinner.

Oh, the nerve, I thought. I knew my kids couldn’t help needing me and hanging on me. I knew they didn’t know any better and it was in fact my job as the primary care giver to let them do so without getting angry or resentful because they couldn’t do it all on their own (although sometimes I certainly did lose it).

But my husband was an adult. I could certainly get angry and built up resentment towards him for his level of neediness and I could be certain I never met his expectations. I clearly was not conscious of my choice to almost punish him for what I was feeling about myself—but that was exactly what I did.

He would make advances and I would shoot out a cold chill. I would start a fight or I would find all the excuses in the world to set it up so that there was 0% chance we would have sex that night.

“I ate too much.”

“This is my favorite TV show.”

“I have had a terrible headache all day.”

“I still have so much to do before I can go to bed.”

Whatever the excuse was, I would start laying them down early. Sometimes, he paid no attention to them and as soon as he would crawl in to bed, I would tense up with fear that he would come my way and expect sex. Here we go again, I would think, meeting someone else’s needs while all I want to do is have some time to myself.

He can control himself, I would always think. And, he should be able to read my signals, and not even try anything. He should understand I have had little people hanging on me all day—he should know better. But he didn’t. And, what I learned is I didn’t know better either.

A few things I didn’t realize at the time, until my therapist really helped me to understand them.

First, not meeting my own needs throughout the day was my own choice—and it was a very poor one that was self-destructive.

Second, continued physical rejection by someone they love is a very powerful feeling for most men (even if they are not always aware of it, because you know, it’s outside the four feelings they know how to articulate: happy, sad, mad, glad) and is incredibly damaging to a relationship.

Third, having sex with my husband would significantly improve our relationship and I wouldn’t always feel so overwhelmed by the responsibilities—plus, I might actually enjoy it. I had definitely forgotten about that part.

She suggested we schedule sex. Yep, you heard me. We schedule it. Start with two nights a week, she suggested. And so we did. It wasn’t always pretty, or romantic, or even fulfilling but it created a new habit and removed a few huge barriers from our relationship. That, I believe, saved us from one of the most destructive cycles we had been in during our married life.

And here’s why. I knew when to anticipate it. I gave in and didn’t have to fight. I committed to it. Now, that may sound strange—like it was a chore—and at times, that is how I saw it (quiet frankly, still do sometimes…just being honest here). But it actually made things easier for me. It significantly reduced the negative energy I put out and allowed me to not always be so on edge about whether his motives were to have sex or not. I took a hug for a hug and not a sexual advance. It changed the way I read and responded to his body language.

It also eliminated the nightly work up, the anticipation and completely eliminated the continued rejection. He knew on those scheduled nights that when he went in for it, he would score.

And, because the pressure was off, we were able to actually talk about the issue of sex instead of always argue about it. It suddenly felt like we were on the same team about it instead of working against each other.

Oh, this is another important point about the plan we implemented. Last thing of the day, when I crawl in to bed was just too late for me. I admitted that was part of the problem and we had to adjust. The kids were old enough we could walk out of the room and go upstairs alone but too young to really realize what was going on. “Mom and Dad are going to fold the laundry,” we would say. Later, we added that we had to “work on the taxes” and now both are jokes among our kids.

Sex has become a very important part of our relationship. It’s not always perfect and sometimes life does get in the way, but it remains at the heart of this good thing we have going on for almost 20 years now.

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We hosted a baby shower on Sunday afternoon for my cousin’s daughter Elise who is pregnant with her first baby.  Elise is the first of all of my cousins kids to have a baby.  This whole sort of journey to the next generation thing is very exciting to me.  Elise’s baby will make my grandma (who is still alive at 96) a great, great grandmother.

Once, several years ago, when I was talking to my grandma about how many great grandchildren she had I asked her if she ever imagined living to see 20 great grandchildren.  She said she never even imagined living long enough to see one great grand child.  Now, she will become a great, great grandmother.

As my cousin’s daughter was leaving the shower with her husband and her cute little first-time mom baby bump, she turned back and said, “I am sure I will be calling you all the time to ask, ‘is this normal?’ for a boy.”

I shouted back, “Don’t call me–I have no idea what’s normal for a boy!  There is nothing normal in my household.”

This morning when I was taking Andy to school and suggested he use a Kleenex to blow his stuffy nose instead of sniffing it all in so he can spit a hocker out the window, he pointed to the Kleenex box to show me what someone had drawn on it.

At that moment, I was never more sure of myself than I was in telling Elise I have no idea what normal is.  Clearly, it doesn’t live here.

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Clowns

Me: How was school?

Andy: Good.

Me: Did you get lots of hugs and kisses?

Andy: No. Oh, mom, we went to the parade today.

Me: The parade? For what?

Andy: To see the clowns….AND I HATED IT!

 

The Flintstone’s

Andy: Mom, they are watching that movie and I want to watch Handy Manny.

Me: Boys, watch what is on Disney channel please, I don’t want you watching movie with too much action and violence before school.

Sam: Mom, this movie doesn’t have violence. It’s the same people who own that cereal called Fruity Pebbles, only instead of cartoons they are real people.

 

The Boss

Andy: Mom, can we have ice cream with Wipeout tonight?

Me: Yeah, maybe. I have to ask dad.

Andy: Why do you have to ask dad?

Me: ‘Cause he was in charge today and I have to find out how you behaved.

Andy: But, aren’t you the boss of the kids?

Somehow, I missed this whole thing.  I look at ads like this and I honestly don’t even know what this shit is used for or how it’s applied. Under what circumstances would one use these items and where in the process do they belong?

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I don’t know how I missed it.  I mean, I grew up in the 80s. I remember sitting at my mom’s vanity playing in her eyeshadow: jewel-toned greens and blues, and purple.  I remember using her eye liner, lipstick and mascara.  But somewhere along the way, I just lost interest and therefore the know-how.

I am not saying wearing makeup is bad, in fact I am envious of those who know how to pull it off. I wish I knew…I wish I could.  I have had my makeup done professionally twice and each time, people’s response is “Wow, you look amazing! What did you do?”  With my head down, I confess to wearing makeup.  It reaffirms the feeling that I should do it more often.  But I don’t know how.

And, before you offer to teach me or tell me about some great little place where I can go and learn, I should caution you not to mistake this post for me saying I actually have interest.  I don’t.  I am only saying sometimes I WISH I did…but I don’t.

And don’t give me that crap about ‘oh, you are naturally beautiful.’ Nope, that’s not it.  I am just not good at girl stuff.

P.S. I don’t like shopping, or even brunch. Told ya’ I suck at this.

Seems like everyone is saying it these days. It’s like we all want to leave, but we can’t. I am not sure what I am so afraid of—why I don’t actually deactivate, but I am very aware of the feelings I have had lately when I am on Facebook. And, they make me want to leave.

I started this blog as the first step in leaving. I want to tell stories. Stories present opportunity for connection and vulnerability. These days, I am finding neither of those things on Facebook.

Sure, you can electronically connect with people and often as much as it “put me in the know” of what people were doing, it brought me no closer to them. My brother and I do not see each other often and while Facebook allows me to know what he’s up to—I don’t see him any more than I used to. The connection is simply one dimensional and electronic. There is no more emotion, love, connection involved than before; just more information. I feel like I have gotten to the point where that’s just not enough.

I used to love Facebook birthdays. Who wouldn’t, right? Finally having 500+ friends pays off when hundreds send you birthday greetings. But this last birthday, I had that same one dimensional feeling. It wasn’t enough. I mean, I have all of these people wishing me happy birthday, but no more here to actually celebrate with me than before. It’s just not enough.

Politics on Facebook—and by politics, let’s include inflammatory social issues as well—have become a source of polarization on Facebook and it bums me out. Don’t like the opinion posted—unfriend. Found an interesting story that supports your beliefs and shows they are superior to others—share. It makes me sad.

Want to find out what your ghetto name is, what kind of cheese you are, what kind of wife you are, take a quick quiz and it will give you all the answers—and you can share it with everyone. That information does not fill me up, it’s not enough. The kinds of relationships that are important to me, that I want to fill my life with, are ones where I want to know what keeps you up at night, not what Little Women character you are.

Now, if this works for you, that’s fine. I am not judging. I am instead saying that it isn’t working for me.

I started using some other social media a few months ago, mostly focused on pictures. But, then I realized when I was in the moment, I spent so much of my time capturing it just right for social media that I wasn’t fully present. I gave it up and opted instead to be fully present in the moment and share it with whomever I am with instead of the world on one dimensional social media.

Again, not judging here. If that works for you, amen sister. But it’s just wasn’t working for me and neither is Facebook these days.

The final reason I want to leave is that Facebook only gives a snapshot of a moment and fails to capture the vulnerability of the experience. It’s that vulnerability where I find I can truly connect with people. For me, telling stories gives more opportunity to share vulnerability (when real meaningful connection happens) than the Facebook status update.

I have heard my kids say things like, “Wow, my picture on Instagram is up to 50 likes!” and I have to remind them that likes are not real. I don’t want to raise kids who measure themselves by the number of Facebook friends, the number of likes on a picture or the number of followers on SnapChat. I want to raise kids who want to truly connect—in the flesh—with people who bring meaning into their lives. And, I am just feeling less and less sure that social media helps with, and more and more sure that it hinders that kind of growth.

The trick is, like I have heard others say, is to parent by leading with example. That means when I tell my kids to avoid, I also need to avoid. The bigger problem is that even things that are not working for me are represented by habits that are hard to break. Facebook is one of those habits.

Sam recently brought home an entry form for a band competition.

I filled out the paperwork and he took it back to school.

The other day, he asked me when it was and I realized I had forgotten to write the date down on my calendar before I sent the paperwork back.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

“Wow, that’s great! I am glad you are excited about it. Do you know what you are going to play?” I asked.

“Maybe Hot Crossed Buns.”

This is clearly going to be a riveting performance.

“I am only doing it because I want a medal.”

“Oh,” I respond, “Well, you will have to really practice hard because I bet there will be some good players there.”

“No, I’m not worried.  Everyone gets a medal.”

…And this, my friends is why I cannot stand the “Everyone Wins!” mentality.

Our house and all three boys bedrooms are littered with medals, trophies and ribbons.  So much, they mean nothing to my kids.  I find them stuffed in the couch, in drawers, under their beds.

I still have the trophy I got when I played First Baptist Little League. Know why? We earned it (…and it was the only sports trophy I ever received).