Celebrating “friends”, poking and narcism, oh my…

Ten years ago, on Tuesday, marked my decade long relationship with Facebook. It was my son, Lucas, who originally urged me to sign up. I was on Myspace and pretty happily connected with my friends and little writing community that way. I signed up, unsure of how it even worked. I mean, seriously, why did I want to poke someone? I mentioned it to a then-good friend and she confided that she was friends with Jessica Simpson, a couple of country singers and a few other random celebrities. Hearing this actually made Facebook a little worse for me. I wasn’t stupid, and I had spent more than a handful of years working within that industry. None of those people were connected to my friend, not even by social media. I have always hated superficial and fake things, and from the beginning Facebook struck me as such. It wasn’t too long though, until friends turned me on to annoying games that I lost hours in. I got caught up in the seven stages of facebooking, after a while. The incessant status updates that no one should EVER do. I shared photos of every little venture away from the house, I made. I checked in at restaurants, shopping, the library… I don’t anymore. Now, I allow myself one hour a week to catch up on people’s news, and that’s it. When I mentioned this, recently, to a friend, she was amazed. How could I do it? She was jealous. I explained to her that the ONLY “friends” I had on the social media site were people I genuinely had relationships with/interactions with/and an interest in having relationships and interactions with. If you’re my Facebook friend I either really respect and admire you, love you a lot, or have a real life, interactive relationship with you. (Most friends make up two or all three of those descriptions. I do not collect people.) Just because went to school together, worked together, grocery shopped at Kroger at the same time or both enjoy Method cleaners does not mean we need to be connected via: Facebook. Also, I explained, the people I have real, interactive relationships with know that I am not really on Facebook regularly and when they have news to share- they send it via a letter/card/email/text/call/vox/marco polo/coffee date/etc.

When I was 31 I apparently joined Facebook. Ironically then too was a time of transition, in my life. If memory serves me correctly however, I handled it much more like a champ than now. (No, I do not credit Facebook for this) Over the past 10 years though, so much has happened. Relationships were built, healed, shattered, splintered. I moved back to the one place I’ve never loved. My mother had a series of small strokes which changed her life, and by extension, mine. My mother had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. I became ill and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I nearly died from a serious case of pneumonia. I have made it through the HARDEST years of my life, as a daughter, as a wife and especially as a mother. I have not made it through unscathed and I struggle with some resentments and issues resulting from such things. I have had a small, but successful photography business which completely transformed my love of photography into something I no longer loved. I have traveled throughout California, watched fireworks from a hilltop cemetery, jumped on the Twilight bandwagon, came to my senses and jumped off. I have camped on the Oregon coast, learned how to do dozens of new things, delved deeply into paper crafting and then reluctantly climbed out of that. I spent a week along the coasts and ports of Washington state, road tripped throughout New England, spent part of the Christmas season in New York City. I have been a cleaner, trained to be an Esthetician (which was a long dream of mine), worked in retail, worked in marketing, both renovated a beautiful home and been homeless. I have had the distinct honor of witnessing marriages I am so proud of, met beautiful babies I adore. I have been there when two of the most precious babies in the world to me, have been born. I have had anxiety ridden, ICU bed side days, sleepless nights and dawning moments where miracles and answers to prayers happened. I have seen my faith weaken, grow and embarrassingly numb in the in-betweens. My two older kids have both married and become parents. My son enlisted, has deployed and I see him far more seldom than I ever imagined I could live with. I attended the memorial service of a girl who died far too young, and far too tragically, whom I loved a deeply embedded amount. I have lost 130 pounds, gained twenty, screamed, cried, cursed, shouted, sobbed and at times wished I were dead. I have contemplated, prayed, praised, laughed, embraced, nurtured, comforted and had to come to terms with so many things. I have heartbreakingly buried two beloved dogs, and gone through the deaths of several family members. Ten years ago I had so much hope in my motherhood, my daughterhood, my marriage, my writerhood, my life. Today, at 41, I can no longer find much of that.

Again, Facebook is not responsible for any of those things, but it certainly is a scrapbook for most of them. It is a record of a decade spent living, most of the good and enough of the bad. It is the place where friends of my husband attempted to tarnish my reputation, further poison him against me and drive a wedge deep into our marriage that will likely never be repaired. It is the place where people resort to sharing their big news, leaving their own parents and children to be heartbroken that they had to learn it from Facebook. When it is said and done, aside from the chronicling of our moments, I have to question if it does more bad than good, consistently.

Honestly, I have a pretty hate/hate opinion of the website. I do not keep it on my phone. I only keep it at all, because I am connected with my son & daughter-in-law on there and don’t want to miss something that doesn’t really bridge the thousands of miles otherwise. I keep it because, as a writer, it is a powerful tool and since I do freelance work for PR companies, on occasion, it is a necessary evil. This week, however, I am feeling grateful for the mark of this decade together. Good or bad, Facebook was there for me through ten big years and that isn’t something to take for granted… And if we are friends on there, thank you for that. For me, that is a real thing…

The deep mundane…

Last week I received a lovely direct message on Instagram from a fellow writer. We had crossed paths over the social media platform and she had been led to come follow my blog. Her message was heartfelt and encouraged me to write, within this space, more. Honestly, when I read her words I nodded and thought I couldn’t agree more. And yet…

And yet, another week went by of parenthood and exhaustive defiance. Another week of ridiculous traffic, appointments, stocking the fridge, preparing meals, folding laundry, friendship, etc. What would I write about? How I disliked folding laundry that sat overnight in the dryer? How it is flip-flop season and I am in desperate need of a pedicure. How graduation and an open house are approaching at rocket speed and not fast enough, all rolled into one. How I am packing to move out of this temporary apartment and I am beyond tired of transition and moving. How my puppy is the most stubborn potty trainer and how, with Fibro, I am as consistent as I can be but that every moment of every day feels like I simply am not doing good enough at anything. None of these things are blog worthy, dwell worthy, or really worth any thing at all. They are what they are. Some days are better than others. Some days full on blow, while others are exceptional. This is life for each of us, with our own details.

Writing, (something I haven’t been doing much of, beyond the occasional freelance piece) requires deeper than that. If my eyes are trained to see the mundane, the details, the nows and the this minutes, I am unable to plunge. And so, for a blog post you’ll get surface level stuff, unless I resort to the fake. Truthfully, I can’t take either of those options and so, best intentions cast aside for another day, this space remained silent.

Part of my problem, I’ll admit, is that I haven’t had a designated writing space. As I type this very collection of words, I am writing from my bed- my least favorite place to write. I do not have a dining table, as of right now, my bar to bar stool ratio is too much for my little t-rex arms to comfortable type and my living room is cluttered with boxes and mess. Every week I declare that I will take one to two days and go to the local coffee-house to spend a few hours writing from there. In theory, this is great. In reality I have an adult child who makes this idea hard, coupled with a stubborn and needy puppy- and so… So I tell myself a routine can be established later. (Later: tomorrow, next week, next month, next year) and I cope the best I can through the seconds turned to minutes, which link together, arms tight and unforgiving.

This morning I woke up, having survived the various elements of the three-day weekend, motivated. My to-do list was ready. I threw my collection of frozen and fresh fruit into the blender, along with some spinach and various additives to make my breakfast smoothie healthy and filling. By the time I got the blend point, however, parenting frustrations had already occurred (actually about half had carried over from the days of the last few months, hurtful and unyielding) and so when the first sip of my smoothie tasted like a cross between toilet cleaner and a thin mint cookie, I had to take pause. What was going on here? Why wasn’t I writing? Why didn’t I just sit down and do it? Why wasn’t I looking beyond the surface, beneath the BS and in between the lines? Why wasn’t I transparently sharing whatever came to mind? Why was I continuing to sip a smoothie which sort of burned my taste buds and reminded me of my short stint as a professional cleaner in a small hospital?

So many questions, (the “smoothie” is almost gone, by the way, in case you were curious. I’m thinking the Tumeric is where I went wrong- though that it has the power to transform EVERYTHING to such wickedness is a terrifying thought.) with no real answers. So I sit here, feet slightly numb at this elevated position. Stubborn puppy is crated for a two-hour stint of further attempts with project potty train. My stomach is currently unsure of how to digest the new market cleanser I seem to have whipped up, (All natural!) and my laundry sits folded beside me, begging to be put away. Today I will walk the dogs, take some photos of swans, pack a few boxes, list things on Ebay, drive Gen to work and return an insane amount of books to the library. This week I will wrap gifts and put a few last-minute details together for my mom’s 70th birthday, further progress on my daughter A’s birthday and Gen’s graduation open house. This week I will also, hopefully, know exactly where we are moving to. Let’s put it this way, I care a little- Mostly though, I am just excited to get out of this transition. It has been a year of transition. (and over paying for a dump, but that’s a whole other issue.)

The takeaway that I have from our three-day weekend is this: long weekends have a lot more room for the unexpected. While sleeping in and leisurely brunches are lovely, life still happens and stuff has to get done. I think, when I imagine the looming extra long weekend, I forget that part. Furthermore- date nights are so cathartic, and fun, but also sort of pricy. The new Pirates movie is seriously better than I expected, and late night John Cusack marathons might be a little too wild for this girl, as I slept through most of it. (#41isold #canistillcallmyselfagirlifimold) All in all, life is about balance. Sometimes, for various reasons, a fun adventure really can be a run to Sonic happy hour, an hour away. Sometimes a hard day really can be a result of an overcast sky and you feel sad. We are where we are. Period. I suspect I keep waiting for something else, looking for something a bit more to push me to that point where I can be a real writer. There is no point. This is it. The quest of the writer truly is to find the beauty and story within the mundane pile of laundry and accidentally abrasive smoothie. Message noted, and so I will try my best to do better, sweet Instagram friend.

In the moments…

I had a conversation, earlier this week, about routines.

I used to be the queen of routine. My mornings went just so. My evenings and bed times went as they should have. I fell asleep to the same thing, every night. I had a prep day, every monday, where I diced and chopped, whipped and baked. My family ate well and all of the delectable and home-made things were at their disposal. I dabbled in sewing creatively. I wrote just under 30 hours a week. I took photos, thousands of them. I preserved engagement and family photos for clients and seldom felt overwhelmed or stressed.

I am not going to lie, there was a sense of security within those predictables. I knew what was coming and when, often how. Was I happy? Sure. How could an anal, organization freak not find happiness within the confines of such a life? That life, and those impressive time management skills feel about a dozen lifetimes ago.

When we moved back to Michigan, in 2013, my routines went out the window. I tried to reestablish them, but this was a lost cause. As a wife and mother, my world was known to gravitate around the lives of my husband and kids. With my son and older daughter so far away, with my approaching high school youngest being unpredictable and struggling, and a husband whose schedule (and geographical location) changed from day-to-day, I flailed…

Prep days, for example,  quickly became moldy bread (thanks, midwest humidity) and stale cookies, (thanks, crazy schedule.),diced vegetables became uneaten bags of smelly mush. Loneliness moved in. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I missed my nieces and nephews, but more than that, I missed my life. My marriage, my family and the way we all functioned so well within the confines of those routines. My husband often refers to the big change (which became a big change in all of us, in negative ways) with regret for taking me away from my life. What he fails to see, no matter what explain, is that it wasn’t the place that made the life, but us and our intentions.

Four years later, I am in an entirely different frame of mind and approaching an all new stage of life. (Empty nest!) There has been a lot of storms and turmoil to navigate over these four years. It has been hard. No, that’s not true, hard doesn’t crack the surface.

I am different.

I am more free than that queen of routine. Chained and shackled, then, within the perimeters of a false sense of structure and security. Anyone familiar with routine is forced to come face to face, at some point, with how easy it is to hide (and often times, disappear completely) within them.

I lack routine now, and though I love my freedom, this is a struggle I am really avoiding confronting, and it is time to change this. Now I throw together the occasional minimal prep day, simply for my ease of mind as our rental kitchen is about the size of a shoebox. We no longer eat bread or cookies, so that saves the future science project scene. I do have a fairly consistent skin care routine, so at least all hope is not lost. The personal, quiet time, though… And the writing… and the adventures in life through the lens of a camera… and the reading, even the picking up of a book… These are the areas I struggle. The solace in a cup of tea is something I’ve gravitated towards, recently. Piece by piece I am emerging from a four-year cocoon into the sunlight of a life that has possibility.

Now I simply need to learn to design the routine around where I am, who I am and what I need- and not anyone else. I ache for a life of beautiful, hand crafted moments. Today’s new routine attempt is to remember that I am the one in charge of creating those.

 

My red dot…

Today has already held a beautiful morning walk, two cups of rich, hazelnut coffee and a good chunk of time playing with the dogs, in the grass, while soaking in some sun. Emma found a baby turtle, which my daughter and husband are fighting tooth and nail to keep and raise as our own. (meanwhile, I am advocating to return him to his natural life)

Outside was fresh and spring-like, blossoms blowing in the breeze, swirling about us. Puppy paws and denim bottoms are slightly grass stained in that glorious way. Inside, green furry feet nap while sounds of Bach swirl about, in the air. Gen is attending a class online and I am stepping through the tasks and minutes, striving to pause and ground myself in gratitude. This isn’t always easy.

Sometimes paychecks seem smaller than we’d like, but I have to remind myself that they are exactly what we need.

Sometimes disrespect is hurled at us and we have to remember, amidst our frustration and exhaustion that there are mothers who have lost their children and this moment is but a blip on the timeline of a life.

Sometimes the puppy has an accident in the house. Sometimes you get sick and you’re exhausted and feel entirely alone. While all of these things are real, and valid, and current in this house, these are not ALL times, but sometimes. The true value is in the perspective.

Sometimes your husband buys you a bunch of flowers, with his last few dollars, because he knows you love them. Eventually they sit, sad looking, but still feet away from wherever you are because, if you are like me, they bring you such joy.  Life is made of the sometimes, both the bad ones and the good.

Life today is thin, grey curtains blowing in the breeze, the air filled with cello sounds and clean, spring smells. Today is the kettle boiling, soon to become a pot of tea. Today is as peaceful and poignant as I choose to make it, and whatever happens, I choose to make it real…

I am here.

what makes a hero?

Recently I entered into a facebook dialogue about fathers. Specifically the sort of father who isn’t much of an active father at all, rejecting and abandoning their children. What made me truly sad, within the context of this discussion, was the number of people who share that very story. I know that this idea is not exclusive to fathers, but it does seem pretty common all the same.

Some time ago I read a letter my daughter meant for another. Within it she talked a lot of negative untruth about me, but the part that really pushed my emotion over the edge was her writing about her dad, my husband. She spoke about her dad abandoning her and how she had all of these daddy issues because her dad had neglected and rejected her throughout her life. The reasons she was going into such fictitious detail, in page after page was actually to deflect her own responsibilities from decisions she’d made, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this child has grown up being tucked in and prayed with, by her dad, every night that he was not away on business. She has lived through hundreds, if not thousands of movie nights snuggled into her dad’s embrace. She has maintained the second part of inside jokes and daddy/daughter dates, coloring, puzzles, projects, games, shopping, road trips, piggy back rides, video games, bedtime stories, amusement parks, etc. He has never not been present for a birthday, and Thanksgiving or a Christmas. Her dad is 100% all in…

When we think of heroes, we imagine brave individuals, swooping in to save lives, villages or entire planets. These are the things which books and movies are made of. This has, perhaps distorted our view of heroism. Men who stay home and own their responsibility- is this not courageous? My hero is my dad. My dad met me when I was twelve and placed in the house which he and his wife were foster parents. He was not my father (whom I had never met) nor the first person I called dad. I did not like or trust men (thanks, first person I called dad) and so it was an awkward and tough process. Dad can be a title, but it is intended to be so much more. Over the following decades of my life, this man would teach me so much about myself, accepting others, empathy,  and unconditional love. He would meet and embrace my boyfriend/eventual husband in the very way a father should. He would give me a pet name, be at my wedding, repair things in my life that needed fixed, lead Thanksgiving dinner grace in my marriage home, be the only person by my side during an emergency hysterectomy and be such a rock for me as I navigated adulthood through various difficult stages. This man is not my hero because he became my dad, but because I was not alone here. This man has a large number of children who knew him as dad, whose lives he helped shape. Whose lives (in my case, and a few others I know, anyway) he saved in various ways of meaning. When I think of a brave man, I think of him. Some of the kids he sheltered had dads, but many didn’t, and this man bravely stepped in to do what others either could not, or did not. I look at him and I know, without a doubt, this world is a far better place because of him and how he’s chosen to live his life.

The question I was challenged to write about was someone heroic that I admire, who embodied sacrifice and courage. I know a hundred soldiers, all of whom I admire immensely (my son tops the list) and I did not want to deflect from their sacrifice and heroism. On my heart though, were the dads. The men, like my husband and my dad, who love beyond themselves and open up their hearts to parent the unparented and abandoned as if they were their own, signing on for the whole of their lives… I was asked to choose someone I would stand up for. Regarding these two men- (and, my son. :) ) in a heartbeat, time and time again…

Partnering with the release of the up and coming film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, (you can watch the trailer here) I would like to offer a small giveaway. The promise is a story of sacrifice and love. It is about two heroes, one who stands up for truth and injustice and the other who is willing to pay the ultimate cost for what is right.  I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card to one winner. To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on here, or our facebook page, talking about your own hero- and why. (if you share this on twitter, please leave a link in the comments for an extra chance to win.)