Category Archives: life

If Postpartum Mamas Banned Bossy

“Shhhhhhh. Don’t talk too loudly and don’t let anyone hear you.” the woman whispered as they chatted in the vestibule at church. Her companion had just expressed concern about a young new mother in the congregation who looked a bit exhausted that morning as she wrestled with her six week old and two year old toddler.

She patted her grey curls and adjusted her purse as she glanced around and leaned in to speak. “Don’t say anything but I heard from Ethel that she’s struggling with…” she lowered her voice to barely a whisper “that postpartum depression stuff.”

Her companion gasped and put her gloved hand over her mouth.

“No… not that. Why, in our day, we didn’t have that sort of thing. We just made do. These new age mamas and their excuses not to do the work mothering requires of them. Why it just makes me so angr…” Susan wagged her finger in front of her mouth as the bedraggled topic of their gossip approached.

“Well, hello there, Beth! Just how are things with you these days? And ohhhh… look at the new little one! Isn’t she just precious?” Beth sighed, glanced at the baby then back at Susan. She forced a smile and said “Just fine, come on, Ethan. Let’s go find Daddy.” As they started to walk off, Susan made a knowing eye contact with Joan, motioning after Beth, as if to say “I told you so.”

They stood there for a few more minutes, dissecting every aspect of Beth’s behaviour, dress, and choice of clothing for her children but not once did they discuss how they could help Beth as she learned how to navigate her way through this brand new motherhood of two children. Instead, they simply stood aghast and whispering at her apparent failure, ignoring all the signs that something was amiss.

Sadly, this still happens to many mothers. We are judged. Discussed. Analyzed. Dismissed. All because so many fail to discuss what is actually going on inside our heads. Because not enough of us get BOSSY about it.

What if, when Beth finally heals, she grabs the bull by the horns and starts a support group at her church? What if she dares to get up in front of the congregation and admits to her experience and educates those sitting there? What if she dares them to do more for new mothers and therefore changes the lives of new mothers touched by this church? But if we ban bossy, the Beths of the world won’t do this because well, they’ll be sitting down and not doing anything to blaze a path because SHHHHHHH. We dare not be bossy.

If I had not been bossy with my maternal medical care, things would have gone unnoticed. Hell, even though I was bossy the first time, I still went untreated because I was seen as “wrong” even though I knew myself better than anyone else. My “bossy” hormones should have slid magically back into place at four weeks postpartum so it wasn’t possible for me to have PPD. Shame on me for daring to say anything about not feeling well and daring to expect the doctor to actually, oh, I don’t know, DO SOMETHING. I slinked away, disappointed at not receiving help and resolving to stand up for myself down the road if necessary even if it hadn’t gotten me anywhere the first time around.

I got bossy the second time around too after my docs scheduled me for an induction WITHOUT MY CONSENT after noting that my first baby had been “big” at birth (she was 8lbs 3oz, thank you very much.)

What would happen to women, to all the progress we have made in the birthing world – hell, in the postpartum world, if we banned bossy?

There would be no Katherine Stone.

There would be no #PPDChat.

There would be no ample supply of kick ass doulas.

There wouldn’t be a chorus of PPD advocates or breastfeeding or formula feeding advocates. Or Attachment Parenting advocates. Or…. do I really need to go on?

What about NICU Parents? Where the hell would they AND THEIR CHILDREN be without the bossy trait?

Bossy is necessary.

Bossy saves lives.

Banning bossy is akin to telling someone to sit down, shut the eff up, and take whatever life shoves their way. Maybe that’s not what this campaign is about, maybe it’s about taking charge and finding a more positive way to spin it but dammit, no one gets to tell me what word to use to describe myself.

Words are powerful things. They incite strength, they spark revolutions, they can make us cower or they can give us power. But the beauty of words is that WE get to decide what they mean to us, not those who are spewing them at us. We define them. We can take them and twist them into the most beautiful and amazing things ever seen by mankind. It is up to us to choose how to process that which is spoken to us, about us, by us, and for us.

No one should ever put bossy in the corner.

No one.

Instead, we should grab it by the hand, drag it out to the dance floor, and flaunt that baby like there’s no tomorrow. Own it as if we are in the spotlight with Patrick Swayze himself, getting ready to dive off the stage into his arms.

The idea that we are to ban this word to encourage young girls not to be afraid of being “leaders” scares me.

Are we really empowering girls by doing so or are we further protecting them from the big bad world out there waiting to swallow them whole? Bossy gets you places. Bossy starts inside, it drives us forward, and it ENABLES us to be leaders. Not the other way around. If we ban bossy instead of embracing bossy, we are further shaming the word and the attitude. Hell, motherhood alone requires a certain level of bossy, does it not? As does fatherhood.

I am bossy.

I am not afraid to say no.

I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs. I am not afraid to stand up for others and the rights they have. I am not afraid to tell someone “No, that’s not right. This is the truth, and you need to listen to it.” I am not afraid to protect and defend mothers who suffer from Perinatal Mood Disorders.

I will be bossy about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders until the day I die.

No social media campaign (or anything else for that matter) will ever change that.

Let’s not ban bossy.

Let’s make some noise…and make some history while we’re at it.

Because “well-behaved women seldom make history” yanno.

Here’s to all of us bossy women – rocking the world, taking names, and kicking ass.

Stay bossy forever.

A Different Breed

She sighs, in the dark, as her baby snuggles closer to her neck, his chubby fists opening and closing as he exhales and relaxes his body with a small whimper. She waits, supporting him, waiting for that moment when the weight of sleep brings a random tingle or two to her forearm. Stands up slowly, using muscles in her thighs to lift her upper body as she does so, careful to not a muscle touching her now sleeping infant. Eyes flutter shut as she puts one foot in front of the other, heading for the crib. Baby shifts, stutter sighs, and moves, nuzzling further into her neck. She moves her hand to the back of his head, rubbing it softly as she hums their song.

She manages to lay him down and leave the room. As she crawls into bed, her calves sink into the mattress first, then the exhaustion surges upward until her eyes slam shut until morning, all of an hour and a half away when she will wake up to a hungry baby, a dog with a full bladder, and a toddler who has probably strewn cheerios over half the house because she needed to feed the dog.

Motherhood.

It changes us.

Mentally.

Physically.

For some, motherhood is a warm field on a sunny day filled with laughter, babbling brooks, playful deer, and an intoxicating joy.

For others, motherhood is a dark room in the bottom of the keep, covered with bars, the key well beyond our reach. We fight, we scream, we rage against the thick door but it won’t budge. We see the warm field in the sun from the window a the top of our room and long for it – long to talk walks with our little ones as the sun beats down upon our faces and a smile spreads across our face but instead, we are trapped inside our own special hell.

Motherhood without a mental illness is not the easiest road to tread, either. Heck, life in general requires some level of tenacity. One of the most frustrating things I am faced with is not discounting the struggles that each of us go through – respecting the journey of every single mother without demeaning the journey of another. And yet, it’s my goal.

Over the past several years, I have been privileged enough to meet some of the most amazing and resilient parents. Parents who fight for themselves, for their children, for their relationships, for life. Parents who work through even deeper hells than I can even imagine and still manage to parent their kids, all the while, worrying about how their experience will affect their kids, their marriage, their jobs, their lives. Yet, every morning, they wake, get out of bed, and take another step forward toward healing, even if they are absolutely exhausted.

A friend of mine posted on FB a quip about hockey players being a different breed. He was commenting on Rich Peverly’s alleged desire to get back into the game despite having experienced a cardiac event on the bench. Any other sport and the player wouldn’t be thinking about getting back in the game, right?

The same is true of mothers battling against mental illness, whatever form it may take for them. We want to get back in the game. We want to play, we want to laugh. We want to be free to just…be…without the burden or restraint of our mental health on our souls. This is why we cherish the good days and wade through the bad ones. Why we hold on so tightly to every single glimmer of hope crossing our hearts.

We are a different breed.

We aren’t worse.

We aren’t better.

We’re just different and we want to be loved for who we are, not what you think we should be or could be.

We just are.

Love us anyway?

The Magic of Memories

We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

Permission

What’s the one thing we don’t give ourselves enough of?

Permission.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry, to take the day off from things we need to – to take time for ourselves. So when we do try to unwind, this lack of “permission” to relax interferes with our ability to fully unwind.

Instead of unwinding, our minds race with what we should be doing or how we will get everything we need to get accomplished once we’re done unwinding.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve how WE need to grieve. It’s a process, an impossibly intimate and personal one at that. No grief is like the next. So instead, we “buck up” and move on, judged by those who think we haven’t done so quickly enough.

Then there are expectations, levels of impossible perfection. Yes, we should strive to be the best we can be at all times but you know what? Sometimes the best you can be is just that – the best YOU can be. Not the best she can be, or the best he can be, but the best YOU can be. It may not measure up to what you see in your head as the best you, but at the end of the day, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s what matters.

The other thing we don’t do often enough is give ourselves permission to love ourselves or love those around us with wild abandon. We hold back a little piece of ourselves too often because we fear vulnerability. The act of blooming fully scares many of us because we have known pain and refuse to let ourselves get wounded again.

But here’s the thing about that – we don’t live if we hold ourselves back or if we let others change our sense of selves. Permission for truly being yourself is something only you can give. Realizing this is a huge leap forward toward healing any pain which may have frozen you in the past. As a popular Disney song commands us – let it go.

I’ve been growing into permission to be me. There have been days where I’ve been a wonderfully glorious blossom and others where I’ve been a wilted flower. But it’s okay because each day, I’ve been the best damn blossom and wilted flower I can be, which is what matters when the sun sets.

Then, in the evening sky, the moon rises. It waxes, it wanes, form changing with the twilight of every evening until it grows full then fades away completely.

My favourite is when the moon hangs low and grins down at us, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat. Sometimes, I imagine there is a devious cat just behind the inky darkness, waiting to pounce on us.

Moments like these are what help me hold onto whimsy in the face of the craziness of daily living.

Focus on the little things.

Give yourself permission to be the best YOU that you can be.

Love with wild abandon. Laugh with your belly. Sing with joy.

Above all else, grin back at the Cheshire cat and never forget to hold onto the whimsical.

Whatever Wednesday: Wrong Number

Note: The following is based on a true event but details are grossly exaggerated. Maybe. Sorta. I plead the fifth. Mum’s the word and all that. Oh, and if you’re drinking or eating anything? Swallow it first and don’t take another bite or sip until you’re done reading. You’re welcome.

I just sat down at the desk to check Facebook for a few minutes when my cell phone started to ring. I looked at the number and didn’t recognize it. So, I did what any sane person does when an unrecognizable number calls you. I flipped it to silent and Googled the number.

I expected it to be some unknown land line. You see, I don’t give out my real cell number to anyone these days, I use my Google Voice number. So when a number from the area of my real cell number calls, I figure it’s probably a wrong number so I don’t answer.

Google’s results shocked me.

The number belonged to an adult lingerie/fantasy store.

Um, ‘scuse me?

I use Ama, er, um, uh… yeah. I’ve digressed enough. Anyway.

It gets better, yes it does.

I PM’d a friend on FB about the call, through tears of laughter.

“So… a lingerie store just called me….this has the potential to be hilarious.”

“What’d they want?”

“They left a voice mail… listening now…”

“It’s a message for Mary. Her item has arrived and is on hold. Oh, I want to call back and pretend to be Mary.”

“Poor Mary isn’t going to get her fantasy lingerie.”

“What if it’s not lingerie?”

“Maybe you don’t want to know what Mary’s into?”

“Yeah…maybe I should call them back and tell them I’m not Mary.”

“Hahaha.. Yes, before they reveal something indelicate!”

And so I did the good Samaritan thing, against my meddling blogger’s instinct’s gut reaction. I called the lingerie store to let them know they’d just left a message for Mary on my voice mail, that I wasn’t Mary after an initial resurgence of wanting to claim to be Mary.

Apparently, Mary gave them my number (or they transposed the numbers) when she placed her order for her item. Is her item lube? Cootchie cream? Whips? Deep Throat numbing spray? Cherry Anal Lube? Adult, um, toys? Lingerie? The suspense is KILLING ME, people! (All of the aforementioned are indeed items they sell through their online store – I am not making up the Cootchie cream or the cherry lube, y’all. Swearsies.)

The store owner/employee sounded horribly embarrassed, even uttering an “Oh myyyyy” which would have made George Takei blush, making me even MORE curious about Mary’s item.

After a few exchanges of pleasantries, we hung up. After some consideration, I think I need to call them back tomorrow to, you know, follow up and make sure that Mary hasn’t also used one of my accounts to pay for her, ahem, item. I don’t think she has, but this is just odd.

So, Mary?

Wherever you are, your item is waiting for you. It’s all alone. It’s yearning to be in your hands, against your skin, with you. It’s miserable without your warmth beside it or, ahem, around it. The spice in your love life will have to remain at the requisite level until you get your phone number right. No fifty shades of grey shenanigans for you tonight, sweetheart.

I hope you call to check on your poor lonely item soon…perhaps you will hear it calling for you, moaning all alone in the darkness in the store where they hold all the items people forgot to pick up.

Don’t leave your item in the lost and found, Mary. Just don’t. Be nice to your item, Mary, and it will be nice to you.

Go get ‘em, Mary. Rock it.

A Few Thoughts On Rejection

For those of you who had the balls to go audition for Listen To Your Mother, you rock. To those of you who made it, congratulations.

To those of you who didn’t – hello, my sisters.

I have seen friends celebrate and I have seen friends react to not being chosen. Of course it’s natural to be upset. In addition to pouring our souls out through words, we then got up in front of others and *gasp* read those words aloud.

The challenge in being rejected is to not take it personally. But.. but… those are my words, you’re thinking! I READ THEM. HOW IS THIS NOT PERSONAL???

Think of it this way – you plan to sew a gorgeous quilt. You need fabric first, right? So you go to a local fabric store with hundreds of choices. You spend hours sorting through the fabric, comparing them to each other and analyzing the appearance of each scrap in the final design. You can’t possibly use every single scrap of fabric in the quilt and end up with the appearance you want, right?

That’s what the people in charge of LTYM are doing – they are creating a quilt of words and they can’t possibly use all the words they hear or read during the audition phase. So they are forced to make a final selection after browsing the most amazing “fabrics” they have to choose from. In doing so, they work to find pieces which fall into a specific pattern, pieces which will work together for the show they envision. So, you see, it isn’t about you at all. It’s all about their job to select the best pieces for the design they see before them.

I went into auditioning this year with the mindset that I wouldn’t be chosen. But if I did that, then why bother auditioning?

Because standing in front of people, reading words I wrote, scares the ever-loving crap out of me. It is beyond my comfort zone. I don’t even read my blog posts to myself after I write them if that gives you any indication of how much I dislike reading my words. I struggle to accept the compliment of “hey, you’re a really great writer!” to be completely honest.

I am genuinely happy for those who made it into LTYM shows this year. It is an honor to be chosen and it takes courage to get up in front of such large audiences and read personal stories. To those who with me in not being chosen – you are still just as awesome as you were the moment before you took a shaky deep breath and stepped inside that audition room (or connected via G+ Hangout or Skype). No one gets to tell you any different. It takes guts to do that and even more guts to cope with rejection.

Below is the piece I read on Sunday morning for my audition. I like it, they laughed, everyone who has read it has told me it rocks. But it just didn’t fit into the show for whatever reason. I’m okay with that because you know what? I’m writing way more this year than I was last year and with each audition, I’m getting better at it. Sure, it’s nice to have acknowledgements and acceptance from others but in reality the only opinion which matters of yourself is your own.

Enjoy reading my audition piece!

____________________________________

It’s a strange balance, this juxtaposition of womanhood and motherhood.

If we falter even the slightest, it’s as if someone yanked the worst possible Jenga block out of our intricately formed tower and we’re left hoping we’re as brilliant as Raymond Babbit, able to immediately calculate what’s fallen down as well as how to fix it.

As mothers, we are expected to heal everything, know everything, cook everything, be everything. I don’t know everything, I can’t heal everything, I am not everything, but I am able to cook almost everything. Except insects because that’s just gross.

When I was a little girl, I shoved stuffed animals under my shirt in the sunroom of our family cottage over on the Jersey Shore. I’d unceremoniously yank them out after a few minutes (which back then, felt like an eternity), giving birth to my “children.”

Stuffed animals made the best children in the world. They didn’t cry, they didn’t poop, they didn’t throw up….seriously. They were awesome. Plus, how on earth could you be sad whilst cuddling an adorable fuzzy teddy bear?

Fast forward about 20 years or so and there I was, in a hospital in rural South Carolina, about to give birth. It was a bit more complicated than yanking a stuffed animal from under my Mickey Mouse shirt – this time, I was screaming, pushing, and praying the epidural would magically start working on the side of my body engulfed in enough pain to convince me it was on fire.

Then, after 14 or so hours of labor, she arrived. In true Jersey Girl fashion, my oldest slid from the womb giving the doctor the finger on my behalf. I didn’t know what to do with her. She wasn’t soft and fuzzy. She was wet, naked, kicking, and screaming. The advice from the nurse about breastfeeding? Make sure you get the entire areola in her mouth – you know, the brown part. (Gee, thanks!)

I sought help at 12 weeks postpartum for depression only to be told “Hey! You don’t have PPD because at four weeks postpartum, your hormones slid magically back into place! But wait, there’s more…you’ve won a visit with our in-house therapist who will keep rescheduling!”

Swell.

We moved back to be closer to his family and I toughed it out without professional help. Then we got pregnant with our second.

Second time around saw me through over forty hours of labor. Delivery was fast once I pushed. But then, she was diagnosed with a cleft palate and I lost my mind. Medication at 10 days, hospitalization at 56 days, enlightenment shortly thereafter.

I didn’t have to suffer. I didn’t have to struggle. I had forgotten to mother the most important person in my life…me.

Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless. If you attempt to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher, it is impossible. The same goes for self-care. If you attempt to care for others while not filling yourself, you will give nothing.

My third child was born after a quick and relatively simple labor. I didn’t have any issues after his birth as I did what I needed to in order to take care of myself first. I took care of my little guy and his sisters, but I managed my own well-being at the same time instead of just theirs.

I mothered all of us.

That, my friends, that is the key to mothering. It isn’t in balancing. It isn’t in being the Martha Stewart at the bake sale. It isn’t in knowing how to solve every single issue that may or may not crop up. It isn’t in being the Joneses on the street or even in being the Mom who lets her kid do whatever he or she wants.

The key to mothering is mothering EVERYONE in your family the best you can, yourself included. You are the nucleus of the family, the center of their worlds, and they are yours. Embrace this. Cherish this. Nourish this. In the process, however, remember to take impeccable care of yourself for without this important step, all of this may suddenly disappear into a dark vortex and suddenly, you won’t be in Kansas any more.

Remember Dorothy’s mantra? There’s no place like home. Only in real life, a mother’s ruby slippers are self-care and you absolutely must remember  to click them together….often.

Choosing Happy

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

~Sydney J. Harris~

Think about those quotes for a few minutes, letting their truth sink deep into your psyche. Sip your coffee, tea, juice, or water, and let it wash over you.

What do they say to you? How do they feel in your heart?

It is difficult to remember, in the depth of depression, that happiness is not a goal nor is it a place. It is instead, a by-product of life and more in the journey than in the destination. All too often, we focus on reaching a final ‘state’ and forget that our ‘states’ are instead fluid and are pulled with the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve written before about whether happiness is a choice. I did not believe happiness was a choice until I finally chose it. You see, happiness does not equal a constant cheerful demeanor. Happiness doesn’t mean everything is giggles and confetti.

Happiness, to me, is flowing with what life throws at you. It is knowing what to do when things turn negative, it is taking care of yourself in the midst of the whirlwind. Happiness is realizing that life happens and the majority of it is how you choose to react to it.

Let’s take, for example, a young woman in a grocery store. She’s in a rush to grab a few last minute items to cook dinner for her boyfriend. She runs around the store, grabbing the items, and goes to the front. All the self-checkout lanes are taken and she is left with choosing between two open registers with cashiers. One has a young mother with three children and a very full cart while the other one has an elderly woman with not much in her cart. The young woman chooses the aisle with the elderly woman. But the elderly woman is very chatty with the cashier and very slow with her wallet. She also decides she doesn’t want to purchase a few of the limited items in her cart so the young woman has to wait for a manager to come over and do a return. By this time, there’s someone in line behind her so she’s stuck and can’t go anywhere.

This young woman would have every right to be frustrated and angry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and enjoys the few moments of peace this has granted her in between her very busy job and the busy rush of cooking ahead of her. She looks around the store and notices the colours of balloons floating above displays for an upcoming holiday, she listens to the children in the aisle next to her giggle and play with each other as their mother manages getting all the groceries on the conveyer belt.

We have a choice in the way we respond to external stimuli. One of the most popular things I hear people with disabilities or mental health challenges say is that they may have x,y, or z, but x,y, or z doesn’t have them. It truly is the best way to view things because when x,y, or z doesn’t have you, it doesn’t have power over your mind which means you know how to handle it.

And as we children of the 80′s remember, knowing is half the battle.

This One Time, On the Way to Jersey

There are so many running jokes about New Jersey. So many. All of them would fill a few blog posts but this post will focus on the joke about the roads in NJ.

How does a driver know they’ve crossed into New Jersey?

The road is suddenly a mine-field of potholes.

THAT’S the joke we’ll be talking about in this post.

Today, I drove into Jersey for an audition for an upcoming Mother’s Day event. Lemme back up a little before I go any further.

You see, I grew up in Jersey. I am intimately familiar with the bumps and potholes along the roads within this glorious Garden State. As a child, my parents owned a Dodge Ramcharger. They drove that thing until it hacked and coughed and refused to go another mile. I remember at one point, watching the road drift by under our feet. I developed an affinity for watching the pavement go by and managing to notice potholes and cracks as we sped over them. Dead animals, however, were infinitely more disgusting when viewed through the floorboard of the Ramcharger. I was just grateful we didn’t have to Flintstone it.

Flash forward to this morning:

I sped over to South Orange for the audition, hoping to beat the non-storm we seem to be experiencing at the moment. I use Waze for any interstate driving these days. It’s a fabulous app (and no, I was not paid to say that – I genuinely love this app!) With Waze, you can report events on the road – everything from debris in the road to police to…well, potholes, apparently.

Some idiot this morning decided to start reporting potholes on the Interstate.

Ever seen Nothing to Lose? The scene where Martin Lawrence accidentally discharges the gun and shoots Tim Robbins who freaks the hell out? As they drive away, Tim Robbins is whining about how his arm is going numb, yadda yadda yadda.. then he gets his shirt off aaaaaandddd….

Martin Lawrence smirks, rolls his eyes, and deadpans the following: ” ….that’s a baby gash…..”

The potholes this morning?

Baby potholes. AT BEST.

Now, potholes can cause damage, yes. They can be expensive. But for the LOVE OF GOD, people. You’re in Jersey. Know how things are stereotypically bigger in Texas? Well, in Jersey, unless the pothole is big enough to swallow Chris Christie, guess what, IT DOESN’T COUNT.

On the way home, the attention on Waze changed from potholes to dead zombie deer. It’s the only logical conclusion I came to as the fifth dead deer popped up as a warning from Waze.

“WATCH OUT! Dead animal on the side of the road ahead.”

Dude. Unless that deer is a zombie in war-paint, covered in brush, and crouched behind the guardrail, waiting to pounce into oncoming traffic, it’s not gonna go anywhere or do anything. Hell, the baby potholes pose more of a danger than the dead zombie deer.

Now, one of these reports was totally valid as said dead zombie deer was in the middle of a merge lane and caused vehicles to swerve to avoid it. But all the other dead zombie deer? Nowhere near the white lines, not in the shoulder, but well on the grass. One of them was even chilling on a stack of snow pack, draped gracefully over it, as if it were being kept on ice by a giant Yeti for a snack.

Only in Jersey, man. Only in Jersey.

The Gift of the Sun

When was the last time you looked up into the sky as if you were a young child, in awe of nature, believing everything up there was pure magic?

I do it at least twice a day. Sunrise and sunset.

Throughout the rest of the day, sometimes a cloud pattern or group of birds will catch my attention but it is the sunrise and sunset which capture my soul.

This morning, I awoke to a blushing sky, pale pink expanding across a barely lit atmosphere as the sun caressed the wisps of clouds drifting through the atmosphere just beyond the trees at the edge of the field across the road. Pale pink gave way to a golden glow, setting the naked trees afire, eventually dancing across the icy snow at their feet.

A lone black bird soared to one of the larger trees, settling in the highest branch, clinging hold as the wind waved him to and fro. Traffic echoed just below, an invasion of the solitude of the dawn cascading across the sky.

Most of the morning was filled with blue, then this afternoon, the clouds expanded, obfuscating the joy promised us by the bright blue sky in the midst of a dreary winter. But the evening sky apologized for this infraction, providing a spectacular range of colours as the sun nestled into the other side of the world.

Corals, reds, purples, blues, greys, they all mingled together just below the houses at the edge of the field, the sort of sunset which one can only witness with eyes and not capture on film.

Although I have bemoaned the existence of a sub-zero winter and being buried in far too many inches of snow, it has brought some of the most phenomenal sunrises and sunsets I have ever witnessed, including those I saw as a young child growing up near the beach.

Witnessing a sunrise and a sunset is a gift. It is sheer magic. Both a re-affirmation of life, of finding the beauty in the littlest things. It’s as if our entire day has a bookend of amazing art on either end. To ignore it, to not take the few minutes it exists and stare at it as if you are four years old again and the world is made of magic is foolish.

If I don’t take the time to do witness the beauty that is the sunrise and sunset, my day feels empty. The colours fade so quickly, the magic even faster. Sometimes I may sleep through the sunrise (who doesn’t on occasion), but on those days, I am sure to take in the state of the sky before I do anything else – even reach for my phone. The sky is the first thing I focus on when my eyes wake in the morning. It’s also the last thing I look at before I go to bed – I look for stars, for the moon, for clouds… and now that I am sleeping with the blinds opened, if I wake in the middle of the night, I get to see the moon as it drifts through the onyx sky.

Do yourself a favour this next week. Take the time to look up at the sky with the wonder of a child who hasn’t been jaded by the responsibilities of a fast-paced world. Breathe in the artistry and beauty right in front of you. Drink it in, commit it to memory, to your heart. For if you carry beauty in your heart, there won’t be room for much else.

Spring Forward

March.

Such a tumultuous month, isn’t it?

So many sayings, so filled with change and rebirth.

Spring. The Ides of March. St. Patrick’s Day. In like a lion, out like a lamb.

Our first weekend of March is definitely the roar of a lion. As of right now, there’s a giant snow storm on the way, predicted to drop up to 14 inches on us. It’s frigidly cold outside.

We had a tease of warmer spring weather last weekend when it hit the upper 40′s and low 50′s. Growing up, I begged to wear shorts if it was forecast to hit 50. Years in the south jaded me and 50′s became the temp at which you bundled up. Last weekend? I wasn’t quite in shorts but I wasn’t wearing a coat either.

Last weekend was filled with hope. Birds flitted here and there. Snow melted. Grass appeared. Icicles disappeared. For the first time since early December, my heart danced with the mesmerizing rebirth that is spring.

And then.

Talk of this weekend’s storm.

Just.NO.

The birds are quiet. The icicles are re-appearing. The grass will be a distant memory after this storm, yet again. I saw large uncovered spots of grass today. Snow piles will expand, filling even more space we do not have to give to the frozen white stuff. For instance, there are parking lots with limited access and piles of snow claiming several parking spots – yesterday, at the gym, for example, I backed into a space next to a giant snow pile, with my car halfway on the pile and nearly backed into the snow pile behind it because it was one of the only spots left within proper walking space.

I’m fighting to find the silver lining at this point.

I’ve done a lot of baking. A lot. I conquered sourdough. I made sourdough bread and now make sourdough english muffins. Sourdough pancakes are above and beyond buttermilk pancakes….seriously. You want a fantastic melt in your mouth AMAZING pancake? Make a sourdough one. Dear.Sweet.FOOD.HEAVEN.

I made split pea & ham soup in the crockpot the other day. I have Borscht planned for this next week.

I am a comfort food expert at this point. Not that I wasn’t before but I have definitely expanded my horizons.

Things I’m looking forward to once warmer temperatures (finally) arrive:

  1. NO MORE SNOW.
  2. Sunshine.
  3. Birds singing.
  4. Trees with leaves.
  5. Grass, lots of it.
  6. Sitting outside in a warm breeze, drinking coffee.
  7. Warm rain.
  8. NO MORE SNOW.
  9. Summer food – lighter fare.
  10. Rabbits. Squirrels. LIFE.
  11. WARMTH.
  12. No more air that hurts my face.

I want to drive down the highway with my windows down, music blasting. I want to open the windows at home and not run the heat. I want to only see the colour white in the sky, not on the ground. I want to relish in the colour green being the prominent colour on the ground. I want to swoon over wildflowers and daffodils. I want to breathe in life and watch the Earth exhale poetry.

That’s what I want.