Thursday, May 31, 2012

2nd Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge - Day 1

Day 1 ~

To kick off the challenge, the first day's picture is a self-portrait.

Ideally, it's something you take today.

All fan submissions need to be posted on my Facebook fan page, which is linked here.

I can't wait to see you all!

Just a little shameless self promotion...

So, May is ending and June starts tomorrow.

Around these parts, that means it's time for the 30 Day Photography Challenge.

I have a feeling this will be an annual tradition, which means this is an official named event. :)

In anticipation of the annual challenge, I'm just going to post links to all my various social media locations, so you can follow me.  That way, you won't miss anything from the challenge.

We had a blast last year, and I hope this year will be even better!

You can follow my Facebook fan page here, which is where the photos should be posted for the challenge.  It's also where most of the fun is these days, with WTF Wednesdays!

You can follow me on Twitter here.

My page on Pinterest is here.

If you're on Klout, you can add me as an influencer here.

My page on Blogher is linked here. can always post comments here on the blog or email me at

Have a great day, and I hope to see you during the photo challenge starting tomorrow!  The first prompt will go up tonight.  :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My 9 year old self vs. the Nun

So, by now, you all know my opinions about the Catholic church.  I'm recovering.

There are reasons I have issues with the church...and they started a very long time ago.

I walk in the building when I have to for some other obligation, but mostly avoid it otherwise. And no, it doesn't burst into flames when I walk in. 

I was talking to a friend who knows me pretty well yesterday, and she made a comment about how much Ally is like me.  How I must have been a handful as a kid.

Even still, she was surprised to learn what a rotten child I was.

I got kicked out of Catholic school.

In fourth grade.

Here's the thing.  Back then, and maybe even now, the Catholic schools were run by nuns.  The non-clergy teachers had credentials and were qualified to teach, but the nuns weren't.  They were just nuns.

No college necessary, no credentials required, no experience needed.

Many of them didn't even like children, let alone have any business teaching them.

I spent a lot of time in the principal's office.  And in the hall outside the principal's office.  And in the breezeway outside the classroom.

I was snarky even as a child.

On the day that finally pushed Sister Mary Jane over the edge, she'd been "teaching" a math lesson.  And doing it wrong.

I, being the smart ass that I am, pointed out that her solutions were incorrect.

I can remember what followed next as vividly as any other crystal clear memory.

She waved her long spindly finger at me, and said, Well, then fine.  If you think I'm doing it wrong, then you can come do it yourself.

And I did.

Walked up to the front of the classroom, took the eraser and chalk in my hand, erased the board and taught my classmates how to do it right.

She made a noise that I'd never want to hear reproduced, and left the classroom.  She didn't come back.  Ever.

I am fairly certain she never taught again.

I got hauled into the principal's office yet again that day, my parents got another phone call.  This time, they had to come into the office and have a sit down.  I would not be welcomed back anymore.

I got the boot.

The principal didn't care that I was right, though my argument was that she was teaching everyone wrong.  I had challenged authority one too many times, and that was all they could tolerate.  Never mind the fact that I exposed the limited capability of the teaching staff.  I was a child, and children are not to question authority. Children are especially not to question the authority of a nun.  Period.

I left, and after the word spread about what happened, more than a few of my classmates did too.

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.  
~Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the introduction to summer edition

It's the first full week of summer vacation in my house.

A time of year when people like me simultaneously enjoy the fact that their daily schedules free up and cringe at the prospect of having to entertain the kids

I've already heard a few of them claim to be bored.

Which is fine.

You're bored???  Wash the baseboards.

I can play that game.

There are many things I love about summer, this is true.  Like the BBQs and the late nights on the porch and the street festivals and the movies in the park.  Stuff like that.  It's the other things that irritate me.

I hate sunscreen.  I have a texture issue with it.  It's slimy and greasy and never feels "right".  It doesn't help that both my daughter and I are allergic to it in almost every form.  I can't even put most of it on the other kids without breaking out in a rash.  And for her...we're still on the hunt for something that works.

I hate sand.  In a moment of weakness a few years ago, we decided to put sand in the backyard around the swing set and playhouse.  The kids will love it, I said.  It will be fun, I said. And they do love it.  Then they carry sand with them everywhere they go.  In their shoes and their pockets and their hair.  In the house, in the car.  Here and there, near and far.

I hate ice pops and paths of sticky goo that they leave. I feel like I spend all day sweeping sand and de-gooing the floor.  It's the best when the goo is still wet and sand comes in the house.  That's the good stuff.

I hate the never ending piles of wet towels and clothes and swimsuits.  Everything is always wet, for three solid months.  It doesn't matter how much laundry I do, it's never done.  I'm pretty sure I will have a heart attack the day that someone hangs up a towel.

I hate the fact that my kids can wake up fighting with each other, spend all day fighting with each other, go to bed fighting with each other. You'd think it would get exhausting at some point.  I know it does for me.

I hate bubbles.  Summer equals bubbles.  Kids love bubbles.  Kids love to dump entire bottles of bubbles on the concrete, then watch you hose it off for hours, which only creates a huge foaming dance party stage.  Soap truly is one of the worst things to clean up.

But do you want to know what I hate the most about summer?

The flying blood sucking assholes.  Mosquitoes.

I hate them.  Hate, hate, hate.  I was out back last night and it began.  The nightly feast on my flesh.  I must be delicious.  From now until October, I will do battle against them.  I will wave my hands frantically in the air, flinch at anything that makes a buzzing sound, cringe when dusk sets in, conjure up all kinds of natural insect repellents and itch.  A lot of itching.

Ahhh, summer.  Ain't it grand?

Monday, May 28, 2012


Though there are certainly other times I think about him, I always think about Mike on Memorial Day.

While other people are planning bar-b-ques and running in races and celebrating a day off work, I reflect on the sacrifices of all the men and women like Mike.

The tributes on TV take me back to the church full of uniforms and youth.  To the words said about this man who died fighting in a war that had nothing to do with him.  To the haunting notes of Taps, and the way that a 21 gun salute can bring grown men to their knees.


To me, he was just a kid, one of the best friends of my youngest brother in law.

They moved down to San Diego with another friend, just a few miles from where we were.  He tried the college route, but wasn't in love with it. He wanted more. He wanted a path.

Joined the Army.  Became a medic.

Flew halfway across the world to get into a Blackhawk helicopter that fateful day and become a hero.

He'll always be young, he'll always be 22, he'll always be a kid to me.

He'll forever be a hero.

Thank you, Mike.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I went to the doctor this week.

He's always so worried about me, but seems to think that I'm managing the things life throws at me pretty well, all things considered.

I was a little taken aback by one of the questions he asked me this time, though.  Mostly because it's one he's never asked me before, and one I never expected him to.

It's not the kind of thing that doctors normally ask.

After catching him up on the current events of my life, he stopped for a second.  Folded his arms across his chest, pondered, scrunched up his face, then asked me this:

Do you have faith?

My immediate answer was that I do.  I'm not religious, per se, as I consider myself a recovering Catholic at this point, but I have faith.

In something, anyway.

I'm not sure what I exactly have faith in anymore, but I have to believe that there is something out there bigger than us.  Bigger than me.

My husband claims to be an atheist.  I think he's really more along the lines of agnostic.  He's definitely not a recovering Catholic, though....not anymore.  He's just done with the building and the rules and the judgment.  Entirely.

Which is fine.  I'm really not much further away from that than he is.  The difference between us though, is that I still admit to believing in something.  He tries to deny it.

In my life, I've had too many experiences that tell me that there has to be more than this.  That even with the scientific explanations for everything that we have now, there are times that you definitely feel the presence of something bigger.

I've been witness to the births of many, I've been present for the deaths of a few.

At least from where I stand, you can't see the beginning of a life without knowing that it's a miracle.  And you can't bear witness to the end of one without believing that there has to be something more, something better, something after.

I can't prove it.  I can't find any empirical evidence that tells me I am right.

I just believe it.  I've felt it.

That's why they call it faith.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I heart tomotoes

I have a deep love of tomatoes.

I have to tell you this.
My husband isn't a fan, the majority of my kids aren't big on them either.  Then my littlest one, the one I call the nugget, was born.  As soon as he could walk, he'd find me in the kitchen and point at the containers of cherry and grape tomatoes.  He eats them like candy, always has.  When we cut up tomatoes for tacos, we have to shoo him away from the bowl to make sure we have some left for dinner.  Finally, someone who understands my love of the bizarre fruit/vegetable anomaly that is the tomato.

We went to the farmer's market this morning, and I wholly expected to be disappointed.  To find fresh lettuce and asparagus and onions, but not a whole lot else.

Living in a part of the country that can stay very cold well into the Spring, I know better than to have expectations of fresh produce.

That, and even when the produce is in season, a freak hailstorm can take it out in minutes.  Happened last year to a few local farms, unfortunately.

As silly as it may sound, produce has to be one of the things that I miss the most about living in Southern California.

There are good portions of the year where just about all our fruits and vegetables are trucked in from somewhere else.

Then summer hits, and the farmer's market opens and even if only for a few short months, we get to be spoiled by vegetables that grew only a few miles away.

When we got there, I was surprised by how many vendors are there these days.  It seems like the market gets bigger every year, and things like that make people like me very happy.

I've debated doing a CSA, but have always decided against it for one reason alone - I love to check out all the offerings at the farmer's market in person.  I want to smell the vegetables.  I want to see it in person.

So you can all just imagine my delight when we found the booth that sells the things I wait all year for.  The gigantic heirloom tomatoes.  The tomatoes that are so good you build a sandwich around them.  That you just sit and eat whole.

Me = happy.  Happy, happy, happy.

The tomatoes honestly are one of the best things about summer in Colorado.

And summer is here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - Fear

I'm gonna get all deep on you now, so be prepared.

I've been thinking a lot about things lately, about how much fear drives the choices that people make.  How if only we could find a way to confront those fears, to look them in the eye and conquer them, we'd have a whole lot fewer problems to deal with in the long run.

Think about it for a minute.
The Scream, Edvard Munch
How many of us have not pursued a new career or a hobby or a sport because we were afraid we would fail?

How many of us have chosen to be complacent with the ways things are, convincing ourselves that whatever this is must be good enough, because we're too afraid of change?

How may of us refuse to see that our self destructive behaviors are caused by a fear of dealing with the fact that there might be something actually wrong with us?

How many times have we held back what we wanted to say, chosen to stop ourselves from doing what we knew we should, because of the fear of what the consequences might be?

How many of us have been afraid to stand up for ourselves against those who use us because we are afraid they won't love us or like us anymore?

How many of us are afraid to move on because we are afraid we need to be where we are?  That there may be nothing better?

How many can judge others for their choices, without seeing that we are just projecting our own flaws, but are afraid to look too hard in the mirror?

Fear drives far more things in our lives than we should allow it to.

Fear makes us choose poorly, leads us to the weaker, easier path.

Fear makes us doubt ourselves.

Fear makes us rely on those we shouldn't.

Fear holds us back.

My challenge to you all today is to think hard about your life.  About what decisions you made today because you were afraid.  Then, face that fear, and do better next time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The very trivial nature of things

I've got issues.  I'll be the first to admit that truth.

Even without the things that occupy my thoughts most of the time, I'd still have issues.  Even if they went away and magically poofed into the air, I'd still be a whack job from time to time.

It's part of the fun that is me.

The thing is, as huge and real and painful and troubling as my issues are right now, in the overall scheme of the things, they really aren't that important.

Nothing in the world could remind you of your relative insignificance more than a solar eclipse.

I really am just a speck.

I'm just one of over 7 billion people inhabiting this world.

This world, even, insignificant when compared to the cosmos as a whole.

It's hard to feel important when the entire world stops what they are doing and stares at a ball of fire at the same time.

And then today, another reminder of how things aren't nearly as bad as they might seem sometimes in my world.

The gift of perspective.

A celebration of a friend we lost too soon, a friend who would probably be my biggest cheerleader right now in my life, knowing all too well the road I'm walking on.  I miss her. I miss her spirit in the world.  I miss her smile and her boundless optimism.

Mostly, though, I just miss her.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Time and Distance

This morning, I am grateful for both time and distance.

Other people in my life should be too right about now.

As much as I try to be even keeled and balanced, to temper my reactions, to give people the benefit of the doubt, when things happen like they did yesterday, I fly off the handle.

I react, purely out of emotion.

I reacted yesterday, and it's best that those who my reactions are aimed at were far, far away at the time, wholly unreachable.

Like, actually off the grid.

They have no idea how lucky they are that they weren't here.

It gave me time to take a step back and evaluate the issues more.  To think through how I am going to approach them.

And, perhaps more than anything else, it gave me time to calm the f*%* down.

Deep breath.

If only life granted us more of these chances, gave us a moment to collect our thoughts and feelings before we were forced to deal with things.

I wish you all peace this Sunday.

I wish it for myself too.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What doesn't kill you

I've been thinking a lot about illness and loss, suffering and grief lately. About the patent unfairness of it all.  About how it seems like some people are just handed more, without rhyme or reason.

Almost as if there is some cosmic game of roulette that we are all playing, spinning around in the obliviousness and naivete of life until the spinning stops and the pointer is staring us down. Until reality comes crashing down on us.

After I wrote the post yesterday about the lessons I've taken away from my experiences with cancer (and really, any major illness for that matter), I got to thinking more about it.

About the lessons that aren't really positive or negative. The ones that just are.

My brother has a saying that he repeats and repeats and repeats. It used to drive me a little insane, but I can see the glaring truth in it now. I forget sometimes that as hard as my father's illness was for me, I was a thousand miles away through most of it. He was there for all the days, not just the ones that urged my presence. His phrase?

It is what it is.

And it is.

There are so many things in this life that we have a limited ability to change, many that we can't do anything about at all. Sure, we can certainly decide how we react to the things that happen, but we are more often than not powerless about the course of events.

Cancer teaches you things like that.

It doesn't matter what you want, or how badly you want it sometimes. It just is what it is.

I was talking with a friend now walking this road yesterday. I try the best I can to help her, even if the most helpful thing I can say sometimes is that I understand.

One of the things that I understand, and that she does now too, is that there is a fundamental difference between being a pessimist and a realist.

The pessimist assumes things will go badly, the realist knows that no matter what you wish for, things may very well go badly regardless. The realist knows that you have to anticipate and make plans for that truth as much as you can.  You have to be prepared.

People who've never had to deal with it don't understand, and I would never expect them to. They are still spinning in the land of obliviousness and naivete. They can be so quickly dismissive of the reality lived by those actually in it.

Sometimes the most helpful thing in the world is just knowing that someone else knows what it is like.

Some days you are just surviving. Getting from one day on the calendar to the next. Some days you just have to do what you have to do to get by. You can deal with tomorrow when it gets here, but it has to get here first.

For today, for right now, you have to live in this moment, whatever it is.

There's a huge amount of truth in the quote that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

We, as humans, are the sum of our experiences. Often the only thing we have any real control over is how those experiences shape us, how we react to them, and what we learn. What we can take away from it, fold into the fabric of who we are.

Tuck that strength into a pocket for when you're really going to need it.

Then take a deep breath and survive today.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lessons learned

I found myself nodding along in silence over and over again as I read this article by Mary Tyler Mom yesterday.

She writes about the ways that living through the hell that is cancer messes you up forever, leaves you questioning things all the time, panicked at the slightest changes.

And it does.

She's absolutely right about that.

My first run-in with the big C word happened a long time ago now.  Other people in my life had been touched by cancer, but I never gave any real thought that it could happen to me until it happened to my husband.  Until it happened to us.  At 22, long before most people even entertain thoughts of mortality, we were faced with scary words and surgery and radiation.  We worried about whether we had things like wills.  We started talking about the what ifs.

My husband got through it, we both did.  Some would say that he's cured now, though no one who knows what they are talking about really ever tempts fate by saying words like that.  Instead, you just get to spend the rest of your life hoping it doesn't come back.  Having been humbled by the knowledge you aren't invincible, you're left wondering how long you have until the next thing happens.

The next time the C word showed up, it was life altering for me too, although in a different way.

Cancer killed my father.

I saw how it slowly drained the strength out of him.  I saw how it weakened him.  I saw how it changed him in some ways, I saw how he refused to let it change him in others.  I held his hand when his body stopped fighting, knowing his spirit wasn't ready yet.

I spent all day today at a blood drive for a little boy who shouldn't need a blood drive hosted in his honor.  For a little boy who should just get to be a little boy, who has every right to think he's the invincible superhero that little boys think they are.  He's fighting when he's fighting, he's sad when he doesn't feel good, he's just a normal kid as often as he can be.

It's not fair, this life we are given, but it goes on anyway.

I've said that before, and I'm sure I will say it again.

I wanted to take this chance to write about the things that cancer has taught me.  I've written so much about what it's taken from me, who it's taken from me.  How much it has changed my life and the lives of others.

That piece I read yesterday reminded me of all the ways it still continues to do that now.

And yet, that isn't what I want to write about here, now.  Today.

I want to write the things I've taken away from these experiences that are positive.  The lessons.  The hope.

I want to believe that these things, terrible though they are, happen for some kind of reason.  That there is some purpose behind it all.

I've learned that you really have no idea what your priorities should be until you're faced with life changing issues.

I've learned that when those priorities are tested, they will inevitably get shifted around in ways you never imagined, and that what you thought was important often isn't at all.

I've learned that all that really matters is your health and that of your family and your friends.  

I've learned that plans are great, but they aren't everything.

I've learned that almost everything can wait.

I've learned that even when it is excruciating, you have to find a way to live in the moment sometimes, refusing to think about the past or the future.

I've learned that sometimes you have to ask for help, sometimes you have to offer it, and sometimes you have to help without being asked at all.

I've learned that the human spirit is stronger than the body, and that the spirit can override the body when it has to.

I've learned that even when we feel most helpless, there is always something that we can do.

I've learned that some people are caregivers, and that some are not...and that is okay.  Recognizing it is harder, accepting it is sometimes impossible.

I've learned that there are moments in time that become etched in your soul forever through no voluntary choice of your own.

I've learned that these lessons are meant to be shared.  As others have shared them with me, I will do the same.

I've learned that you have to trust your instincts.

I've learned to see past the mask that others wear.

I've learned to embrace hope.

Sometimes, hope is all we have.  Hang on to it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nobody puts Baby in a corner...

I know that I'm just feeling nostalgic because I watched Dirty Dancing this week.  I get that.  Really, I do.

That line of dialogue has always had special meaning for me, though.  It's about refusing to allow other people to define you, to tell you how to live.

I also know that I'm just generally frustrated with almost everything in my life right about now, so it really doesn't take much to set me off these days.

I've been reading and reading and reading so much in the last week or so about the Mommy Wars.  Damn you, Time magazine.

Seriously, damn you.

I'm not kidding.

I hate the effect that it's had, which is exactly what they anticipated that it would.  Sure there has been a decent contingent of women, of the so-called "mommy bloggers" like me, who've rebelled against the notion that we are supposed to be fighting with one another in the first place.  Who've refused to get defensive about the way we live our lives. That assert that we should be supporting each other's individuality and respecting the very different life situations we are all presented with and the decisions that accompany our circumstances.

And then, there's been everyone else.

Doing precisely what the powers that be at Time thought they would.  Hoped they would.

Defending their choices.  Getting offended.  Some alluding to the idea that however they've chosen to parent their kids is right.

The anti-attachment parenting people seem to come out of the woodwork.  I've seen arguments about everything from breastfeeding to homeschooling to co-sleeping to organic food in the last week.

If the point everyone is trying to make is that the way they parent is okay, then the way that other women parent should be too, right?  At least within the boundaries of reason, that is.

How has it served to further society-wide support of mothers to force the hands of so many, making them believe that they now have to justify the way they live their lives to everyone?

Anyone else get the sense that there are bunches of people enjoying the drama, popping popcorn and watching the arguments unfold?

You don't have anyone you are beholden to.  You don't need to justify your parenting to anyone.  You don't  need to explain your choices to society.  You shouldn't need to feel like you are defending your decisions.

Incidentally, I dislike the fact that I've been grouped into the general catch-all of mommy bloggers in the first place.  I write about my kids sometimes, sure, but I write about many other things too.  My role as mother doesn't (and shouldn't) define me any more than I say it should, and no one else should believe that they get to make that determination for me.

The whole point I was trying to make in response to the Time articles in the first place is that as women, we have to refuse to allow others to define us.  We have to refuse to allow society to tell us what our worth is, particularly when it's solely based on whether or not our uteri have created progeny.

Yes, my uterus works.  My mind does too.  One does not diminish the other.

At the end of the day, the only person I should feel like I have to explain myself to is me.  The person in the mirror.  It's no one else's business how I operate my marriage, how I choose to occupy my time, how I choose to raise my children.

It certainly isn't Time's business, and I'm not about to let it be.

None of us should let them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

I thought about this story after one of my favorite bloggers I Want A Dumpster Baby posted about her upstairs neighbors, who she swears have developed a deep and passionate love of clogging.  I was a bit surprised that I've never written about it to be honest, since it is a very amusing, yet disturbing precautionary tale of what happens when people live in close proximity to one another.

When we first got married, we lived in a tiny little apartment.  Tiny is a flattering term, actually.  It was mold infested too, which was super fun.  No dishwasher, no nothing.  I spent most weekends hauling laundry elsewhere to wash it.

It was quite glamorous.

Then we bought our first place, a condo.  It was a second floor condo sandwiched between a sunken first floor level and the third floor.  While the first floor people got a decent sized patio and the upper neighbors got vaulted ceilings, we got nothing.  Nothing, that is, except neighbors above and below us.

The couple above us was great.  A gay couple, they'd been together for almost 20 years and kept an immaculate house.  They had tiny little teacup dogs, but you'd never in a million years think they had pets at all. Never a peep came from them.   No messes, no noise, nothing.

They were great for swooning over the baby we'd eventually have and bringing by an occasional bottle of wine.  I loved the upstairs neighbors.

Then there were the people downstairs.

When we moved in, there was a family.  I'm not even sure how many kids they actually had, but I want to say 3.  They were never all out of the building in a place where I could count.  Dad was quiet.  They had no pets.  What they did have, though, more than made up for that.

The kids were loud.  Screeching loud.  Nails on a chalkboard loud.  High pitched maniacs loud.  All the time.  I swear those children never slept.

Mom was a yeller.  In Mandarin Chinese.  Also in the same screeching loud voice.  The kids yelled at her, she yelled at them.  All the damn time.

That wasn't actually the worst part, though.

The patio was.  For what happened on that patio is so terrible that I still cringe when I think about it.

She cooked the most disgusting smelling things on the grill, often very late at night (I'm talking like after midnight).  The condo didn't have air conditioning, and we lived in inland San Diego County, so it was always hot.  Our windows had to be open.

Wafting in through the windows at all hours of the day, the odors and aromas of whatever wretched creation she was working on.  Blech.

When they put their condo up for sale, we jumped for joy.  We were so excited.  The market was booming and we knew it wouldn't take long for someone else to snatch it up.

We were right.  It didn't take long.

The new people seemed nice at first, I guess.  They had one teenage son.  Then they moved in and we immediately realized how wrong we had been to wish the stinky screechers away.

These people smoked on the patio constantly.  They had a dog that pooped on the patio, and they never cleaned it up.  They screamed too, but it was more than that.  They yelled at each other all the time, in different combinations.  Sometimes it was the teenage son slamming doors at 2am, other times it was the mother throwing things against the wall, sometimes dad got in on the action too.

They were nosy.  She'd come over all the time and try to get all up in my business, elbowing her way in.  I felt like I had no privacy left.  Stopped leaving the front door open.  So much for installing that screen door.

Halloween came and they let the son set up some haunted house thing made of giant black trash bags.  Then Halloween went, and he decided that this creation would be a great little hideout for him.  Who doesn't want  black trash bags hanging by ropes from their balcony?

Finally, we couldn't take it anymore.  Our son was getting older and we wanted a house.  I called the realtor and told her she'd have her hands full with this one.  I was afraid it would be a hard sell....after all, we were moving away from those people.  Who would want to move above them?

The first weekend it went on the market, we had an open house.  I was nervous, felt weird about having strangers in my space.  Came home to the neighbor lady waiting for me.  She wanted to tell me how much she loved the paint colors.  WTF????  Why were you in my house????

We got lucky, and it sold quickly.  The first two buyers backed out, though, and I can't help but wonder if it was because of the neighbors.  I wouldn't blame them if it was.

I promised myself I'd never live that close to other people again.

....says the woman who lives across the street from the douchebag HOA neighbor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - Stress

I could write a good long post about all the things chapping my hide today, but I won't.  On the top of that list is something that I have to do this morning that I don't want to do at all.  That I thought was premature to do, that has really done nothing beneficial for me at all, and leaves me feeling like someone kicked me repeatedly while I was down.

Sounds fun, eh?

I'm not a fan, in case you couldn't tell.

What I am going to write about today is how I'm slowly beginning to realize that something has to change.  My body is telling me that this status quo I'm cycling in isn't good for me at all.  Something has to give, and right now, that something seems to be me.

Stress does wonders for the body.

I've been battling my anemia for months now, and can honestly say that it's never been this bad in my entire life.  All the iron pills and steaks in the world aren't making a dent.  I'm always drained.  All the time.  Don't worry about me, I finally got around to making an appointment to see my doctor about it.  I already know what he's going to tell me.

1) That I need to lose weight (regardless of how much I've lost since the last time I've seen him, it's never enough to make him happy).

2) That I need to focus my energies on taking care of myself more (which I will totally get to at some point....yeah, right).

3) That I need to remove stress from my life.

Sure, doc...I'll get right on that.  In other words, STFU.

I saw this picture a few days ago and laughed pretty hard at the accuracy.
It might work.

In the meantime, I'm dealing with the anemia.  And all the other things my body does when I'm stressed.

I don't sleep well.

I have carpal tunnel that is flaring up so bad right now I can hardly type.

My skin allergy issues always get worse when I'm stressed out, and I'm currently broken out from god only knows what on my arms.

I have TMJ that probably is the direct result of clenching my jaw when I'm actually asleep...even in my sleep, I'm a ball of nerves.

Then there is the IBS...oh, that is the most fun.  Haven't had that since I was planning my wedding.  Good times.

I'm a mess.


Unless there is a huge change in my life coming up that I'm not aware of, I doubt that anything is getting better anytime soon.

So if you see me curled up in the fetal position in a corner somewhere, clenching my jaw and rubbing my thumbs together, frantically seeking out a bathroom and scratching the skin off my arms, don't mind me.

Like the doctor always's just stress.

No big deal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The day after

There's an old saying that a mother's work is never done.

It's dead on accurate.

I see the truth in it more and more as I get older.

And I see the truth in it around my house this morning.

Mother's Day is officially over.

The dishes are still here, the laundry still in piles.  The carpet still needs vacuumed and the toilets need scrubbed.

Yesterday was lovely, don't get me wrong.  It was just about the best Mother's Day I've ever had.  But, like most things, the novelty of it wore off after a while, and things returned to normal by the time dinner was done.

Except I was still supposed to be taking a break.  And I did.

I'm just paying for it now.

I think the term Mother's Day is a bit misleading.  It really should be called Mother's Morning.  Or Mother's Couple of Hours.  Or Mother is gonna-have-to-clean-up-an-even-bigger-mess-than-normal-tomorrow Day.

Speaking of which, that pile of laundry is taunting me....
The ball is over, princess.  Back to reality.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


In this place where I've resided for a while now, it seems like every single day is emotionally loaded.  Every day, whether they held special significance to me before or not, holds some new meaning. Holidays in particular have been this way.

Some days are joyful, some days are painful, some bring me to my knees.

Seems like the days that come and go without some roller coaster attached are so unusual that they are the ones really worth celebrating anymore.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

It's one of those days that came and went with little notice from me for most of my life.  I was a daughter and a granddaughter.  I was a goddaughter and a niece.  Then, I was a daughter-in-law too.  I made the phone calls, bought the flowers, jumped through the required hoops.

Then one year, I wanted nothing in the world more than to be a mother, and knew that there was chance it would never happen.  That year, I was supposed to be pregnant, awaiting my first child.  By May, though, that was gone, the baby was gone.  I was facing an unknown future that almost certainly involved extensive fertility therapies just to get the chance to maybe someday become pregnant again.

It was on that day that my relationship with Mother's Day changed forever.  I wrote about it here last year.

Since that day, things have been different.  I've been the receiver and the giver, and have had the joy of seeing it from the other side.  I've been the mother who wanted nothing more than a handwritten card some years, the mother who only really wanted 15 minutes to herself others.

This year, I'm not sure what I want.  Mostly because I'm not sure about much anymore.

I've made some choices in my life as a direct result of my role as mother, those choices have shaped who I am now.  I used to be far more comfortable with who that person was, who she became.  Then the choices of someone else made me start questioning whether I'd done the right thing at all, whether losing myself to the life of being a mom was really the right choice.  Whether I should have held on tighter to who I used to be.

I had no real idea the sacrifices we make to protect our children before.  I knew about them from a distanced perspective, sure, but now I know them up close and personal.

That's the thing about being a mom though....

We don't make our choices just for ourselves anymore.  We make them for others, even as we may struggle with what happens as a result of those decisions.

This year, I can only hope and trust that I'm making the right choices now.  That they are the right choices not just for me, but for my babies.  Today and in the future.

This year, I have to extend the deepest gratitude to my mother-in-law.  There have been so many times this year that I've leaned on her in a way I couldn't have ever anticipated.  We've been through a lot together, some would say we've been through hell even.  She is my ally, she is my supporter, she is more than just my husband's mother.  So much more. I love you, Kathi.

This year, I am in a different place as a daughter too.  Roles are reversing, and I'm doing the best I can to adjust to living in a world where my own mother needs me now.  She's adjusting to needing me too.  It's not been a smooth adjustment, as nothing in life ever really is.  My mom and I, we've been through our own different and distinct version of hell together.  Some roads she traveled alone, some I walked by myself, some we've journeyed together.  We are bruised and beaten, we are weary and tired, but we are hopeful.  And we are a team.  I love you, Mom.

Stealing the words I used last year,

To all the mothers out there, 
whether they are mothers in this world 
or only the world they imagine, 
my love.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Who is really fighting in the Mommy Wars?

As predicted, the nation is abuzz this morning because of an article Time Magazine selected as it's cover story this week.  Even more so because of the emotionally charged image it chose for the cover.
Image courtesy of Time
There's one reason, and one reason alone that they chose this picture to put on the cover.  To stir controversy, to force a reaction, to sell magazines.  That's what they are here for, after all.  They want to make money, not friends.

I'm somewhat amused by those who have fallen for the simplistic notion that the issue of breastfeeding is what this series of articles is actually about.  The hyped cover just feeds into that idea.

It's not, though the issue of extended nursing is one that I have firm beliefs on myself.  One of my children was still happily nursing at about the same age as the little boy on the cover, and her mother was perfectly fine with it too.  How I chose to feed my children is really no one else's business.  It worked for me and my family, and I honestly don't care what anyone thinks.

The reason Time chose this picture was to reignite the never-ending breastfeeding debate.  For as long as commercially prepared formulas have been available, there has been this fight.  Women who choose to nurse, women who choose to bottle feed, women who don't actually have that choice to make for themselves but are dictated to by their medical conditions or those of their children...all women want to believe that they are doing the right thing for their child.  And yet, society tells them that regardless of which path they choose, assuming it is even a choice, they might be wrong.

They are wrong.

Feed your baby formula, and you're setting them up for obesity and exposing them to potential life threatening recalls.  Feed your baby breast milk and you're teaching them to be codependent and weak.  I could go on for days about the things people say about this issue, but I won't.  This article isn't really about extended nursing any more than it's about any single other aspect of motherhood.

It's more about the notion that every single choice a mother makes about raising her children, about how she lives her life, and about who she presents herself to the world as is rightfully subject to criticism.

It's not, or at least it shouldn't be.

Our society these days is one that demands a certain version of perfection from women, then belittles them in every way for falling short.  Our society demands that women, all women, get pregnant only after getting married.  That they eat only organic everything for the duration of their pregnancies.  That they have beautiful effortless labors.  That nursing comes easily and naturally, but ceases firmly at the one year cut-off, if not before. That they immediately adjust to life with a newborn.  That they instantly find the ability to balance their child and everything else in their lives.  That they can simultaneously always be present for their children 24/7, but have a fulfilling career life as well.  That they can keep a clean house and cook balanced meals every day.  That they can throw elaborate perfect birthday parties for their perfect children without ever upsetting anyone.   That never ever gets frustrated with their children.

Can't do all that?

Why not?

We're supposed to, after all.

No one can.  And even if they could, why is that version of motherhood the only one that we hold up as the ideal?

Why does society expect this of us, why do we expect it of ourselves?  Why are these expectations here, but little in place to actually facilitate them?

It's a bit like any unfunded mandate issued by the government.  We are supposed to do all of these things, we are supposed to excel at all aspects all the time, but no one is going to help us do it.  You're on your own, Mommy.  Good luck with that.

Why isn't the cover asking if men are DAD ENOUGH?

I'm not surprised that this magazine chose to stir the pot more, given the generally anti-women rhetoric in the political world these days.  Men have been ganging up on us for months now, and apparently the powers that be feel that women need to start turning on each other even more than they already do, judging one another.

Why aren't we encouraging each other instead?  Why aren't we promoting tolerance and diversity, why aren't we seeing that there is more than one way to properly raise a child?  Why are women still paid less than men for the same jobs?  Why aren't we working harder to help women find that work/family balance?  Why aren't we demanding flexible workplaces and longer maternity leaves?

It's easier to believe that you are doing it right if you find fault in what others do.

We need to stop pointing fingers and judging.

We need to teach our children by example.

We need to lift each other up instead of knocking each other down.

We need to care more about doing our best and less about what others think about what we are doing.

Mothers are going to make mistakes.  All the time.  I've made my fair share.  No one is perfect.  No book or parenting guide or magazine should ever presume to tell you what works for your family, and we need to stop believing that they should be able to.

We need to allow ourselves to understand that we will make mistakes.  That our choices won't always be the right ones in our eyes, and that it really shouldn't matter what anyone else sees.

We need to reclaim our power as women and mothers, and stop giving into the manufactured debates that turn us on each other.

It breaks my heart as a doula especially to see the way things are these days.  I've been witness over and over to the strength and beauty of a new mother.  Of the power of motherhood.  Of the joy and love in the eyes of a new mother.  If only every mother could stay that way, could believe in herself that way, could have the support of society that way.

Let's keep her that way, strong and beautiful.

Let us all keep her that way.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The value of patios

If I had to describe the closest thing to heaven in the chaotic life of a mother, it would involve an hour, a patio, good food, beer and friends who know your deepest darkest secrets and still like you anyway.

I had me some of that today, between the everything else that there is.

It was divine and absolutely necessary for my sanity.

I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - Bring your checkbook...

It's May, people.

So you know what that means.

Everyone, and I mean literally every single person in your life right now needs something.  Specifically, they need money.  Don't worry, though. It's only $5.

It's only ever $5.

But everyone needs it.  All at the same time.

This is the time of the year, much like the end of the calendar year, where people like me start to panic about not getting everything done.  Because it's never all done.   There's always some other party or appreciation day or project or something happening.

Coaches gifts and teachers gifts and birthday gifts and field trip fees and class t-shirts and camp fees and fundraisers.

Everyone wants money for something.

Oh, and can you write a check for lunch money too?

It's the time of year when you don't even attempt to leave the house without your checkbook.  It's either that, or you have to start carrying enough ones around in your purse that people think you've taken up a night job.

Because you need one just to pay for all the crap going on in May.

A friend of mine refers to it as the nickel and diming of the parents.  It reaches a critical level this time of year.  I sign so many checks my hand starts to go numb.

Then, in a few weeks, just like that, it will be over.  No one will need checks signed anymore, but the kids will be out for the summer.

And for that reminder, you are welcome.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Headless Chicken

I feel like I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Figuratively, not literally.

Rest assured that my head is still firmly attached to my body.

It could be worse.  I could really be a headless chicken.  Like this guy, Mike.  He lived a good long time after he lost his head.  Really.  I'm not making this up.  
For that nightmare, you are welcome.

There are so many things going on at one time that I occasionally have to force myself to just take a break from it all and gather myself.

It's not going to get any better for a while, either.  The end of the school year is always like this.  The end of scouts, the end of soccer, the end of church, the end of school.  Birthday parties and team parties and school events and choir concerts and plays and more.
We took the two younger kids to the park for a picnic yesterday, knowing that it was just a fancy, contrived form of procrastination. Planned chore avoidance.

Today, I have to clean the house so that I can have a birthday party so that the kids can collectively destroy it so that I have to clean the house again.

Why do we do this?

I'm tired just thinking about it.

No wonder I totally skipped out on the chance to do it yesterday.

I didn't even write yesterday.

I'll have time again soon, I hope, for things like that.

I had planned to write a rant about the general unavailability of authentic Mexican food here yesterday.  About how I can make better margaritas, better guacamole, better carne asada, better fajitas than any restaurant around.  About how that is just wrong.  And about how green chile sauce does not need to be slathered on everything.  But I didn't.  I didn't even drink any tequila yesterday, and that's a shame.

Odds are there is no tequila in the cards for me today either.  At least not until later.

I'll need it by then.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

I am a huge sports fan.  Always have been, always will be.

Yesterday was one of those days that touched my life a little closer, hurt a little more, brought more joy.

Two things happened that struck home for me.

Junior Seau committed suicide and Jered Weaver threw a no-hitter.

I'm sure that by now, most people are aware of Seau's passing.  And anyone who follows baseball knows about the no-hitter.

For me, though, they are more than just news stories that will fade in the coming days.

Junior Seau hit the peak of his college career just as I was looking for schools.  He was the gentle giant who wore #55 for the USC Trojans, and one of the main reasons I became obsessed with both college football and going to USC.  By the time I was a student there, he'd left his legacy and moved on to the pros.  This video is running on the USC Sports home page this morning.

I'd join him in San Diego a few years later and solidly become a Chargers fan.  Only after living there a little while did I see what he meant to the people who lived there and rooted for that team.

Though he spent some time on other teams in the final years of his NFL career, to me he will always be a Charger.  He was the heart and soul of the team, and the city mourned the day he was traded.  I know that professional sports are as much about business as the game itself, but I will never understand that trade.  It made no sense, on the field or to the fans.
He took his own life yesterday, in the same way other former NFL players have.  He shot himself in the chest, which leads people to speculate that he did it for the same reason the others did.  That the years and years of abuse had taken a toll on his brain.  That he couldn't live that way anymore, and that he wanted scientists to be able to study his brain in the hopes of protecting those who would come after him into the game he so loved.

It is a tragedy, yes.  Tragic that he felt there was no other choice. Tragic for his family. Tragic for all the kids out there who learned that even heroes aren't invincible yesterday.  The real tragedy though, would be to have no meaning in his death. My heart aches for his children, and yet I think that he was trying to tell us something. To protect players more, to work harder to shield them from brain injuries.

My eldest son so desperately wants to play football.  I want to let him, really I do.  Then things like this happen and I wonder again if it's worth the risk.  If Junior had it to do over again, would he have always played?  Would he want his children to play?

Junior Seau was and will forever be part of what I identify with in my past.  He will forever be #55 to me.

When I hadn't even digested the information of his passing, another story.  On the complete polar opposite side of sports emotions.

A no hitter, thrown by a kid who chose to take a lower paying contract so he could stay close to home.

A kid that I will always call a kid simply by virtue that he's the younger brother of a classmate of mine from high school.  Jered Weaver.

In the stands, his parents and wife and watched history unfold.
I'm sure he's floating on air this morning, and he deserves this moment.

I've seen as many games as I have been able to when he or his brother Jeff were pitching, rooting them on louder than most no matter which team they were on at the time.

This is a victory worth savoring.

Congratulations, Jered.  Enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Deep Breath

Sometimes when you're in a place like the one I've been stuck in, you find that you need to occasionally remind yourself to breathe.

I'm not overstating this.  Honestly.

There are times that I get so caught up in my thoughts or in rehearsed arguments or get so engrossed in playing out potential scenarios in my head that I forget that I need oxygen.

I have been reminded three specific times in the last few days of the support I have, of those who have some concept of where I've been. Where I am. Where I can be again someday.  These are all women from different pieces of my past, far removed from what is going on, yet they all share something in common.

They know just when I need something.  When I need someone.  When I need them.

One from where I used to live.  She's someone who is about to start walking a path I've been down and my heart hurts for her.  She's someone who knows who I was before all this came into my life, who those around me used to be.  She shares my anger, frustration and disappointment, yet is one of my biggest cheerleaders.  I try not to burden others with my issues as much as I can, knowing that it's not fair to them.  She got it out of me though, all of it, ugly truths and everything.   And she believes in me.  I need that right now.
And she has a kick ass cassette tape collection.
Another from that place where I used to live too.  Someone I met what seems like forever ago when the biggest thing I had to worry about was getting two kids out of the house at the same time.  Someone who shared that sense of being overwhelmed with me, not knowing what we'd be dealt in the future.  Someone who's been, in part, where I am now, and offers unyielding support.  Someone who knows all the sordid details of my life and still admits she knows me publicly.   Someone that I have more disgusting inside jokes with than anyone else in the world.  And she believes in me.  I need that right now.
Can I get that in a t-shirt?
One far, far away.  She's a whole world away these days.  Who has been in this place that I am, in more than one way, and who understands the complexity of the choices I have to make.  Who knows how much I struggle just to be normal and functional at times.  Who has worn the mask I put on every day.  Who pushes me to remember who I was, to imagine who I still want to be.  She is amazing, and seems to have a sense about exactly when I need to hear from her.  And she believes in me.  I need that right now.
There's good people here, really.
I am lucky.  I am blessed.  And I have had the good fortune to surround myself with amazing women.

Sometimes I just need to take a breath and remember that.

I love you guys.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The Hospital Rant

For those of you who don't know, or haven't figured it out yet, my mother is in the hospital.

She was flown to a hospital almost an hour away from here for a special procedure.  No one was available locally at the time, so there was little choice.  And time was of the essence.

So, away she flew.

And now, with that initial problem still not fully resolved, we have another one.

A larger issue, far more concerning to me than the initial one.

Thing is, no one can do anything to diagnose, let alone treat this other issue at the hospital she's at now.

The reason?

None of the doctors that can help have privileges at that hospital.

Ahhh, bureaucracy.

A patient with a life threatening condition is moved to another hospital for lack of staffing, and now is stuck in a hospital incapable of dealing with the second life threatening condition because of some administrative red tape.

It flat pisses me off.

I've been advocating as best I can, but my hands are tied.  I can't force a transfer, even if she was stable enough to move.  There's no magic wand to wave and get her where she needs to be.

So we wait.  And we hope that by trying to save her in one way, we haven't doomed her in another.
Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a magician.
Too bad teleporters aren't real, huh?

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