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Trying Not To Sound Like Doogie Howser, MD

You can tell yourself these people started out as exceptional.  You can tell yourself they had influence before they started.  You can tell yourself the conditions under which they achieved were different from yours. 

Or you can be like a woman I knew who sat at her kitchen window year after year and watched everyone else do it and then said to herself, “It’s my turn.”

I was  37 years old at the time— Erma Bombeck

So, I’m a year behind Erma, but starting a blog or two is something that has been on my mind for quite a while.  I’ve always been afraid it would wind up sounding like the final scenes of a Doogie Howser, MD, episode where we’d see the lesson learned appear letter by white letter on the blue  computer screen.  To be completely honest, the inspirational nineties music is blaring in my head right now…

As I said, I’m a year behind Erma, and forty is coming at me fast.  I’m in a different place than I imagined, not worse by any means, just different.  I’ve started this to chronicle me getting my ish together, as the kids say (I think they still say that? Anyone??) and as motivation to try things I haven’t before.  My goal is to close out my thirties strong, and enter my forties having tried some things that I have put off until now.  Strap on a helmet, it’s bound to get interesting…

 

 

Remember- Teachers are dealing with the alligator closest to the boat right now.

*This was originally slated to run on another site and I was just notified it was dropped from their schedule today. When I wrote it on Monday, very few teachers had been able to reach out to their students, and as we all know the week has been rapidly changing.

When my husband and I are working through a crisis, we usually remind each other to focus on the alligators closest to the boat. That is- worry about and address the most immediate/ threatening problem first before trying to move on to the next. It has served us well over the years and I keep coming back to this maxim when I think about the teachers trying to navigate this current crisis.

Full disclosure- I am a teacher who is currently a SAHM and working to realize some writing aspirations. That is why I have time to write this, if I were teaching right now, I would be focused on more pressing needs. If I’m being honest, seeing some of the comments about school closures and how work will be provided to students makes me hesitant to ever return to the classroom. I’ve been greatly disheartened by how many complaints I’ve seen from parents feeling like their children aren’t getting digital assignments fast enough, that teachers are probably just taking this time as a vacation, and so on.

To that- I say please realize teachers are trying to get two families through this crisis, the one in their home and the family they spend at minimum every Monday through Friday with. I say at minimum because do the countless out of contract hours they spend with this second family and preparing to teach. When I was in the classroom, there were always students who kept me up nights as I worried about circumstances in their lives that were completely outside of my control. That was in the course of a normal school year- and this school year is no longer normal.

Honestly, if you are able to complain about not having digital resources yet for your child, the good news is your child is nowhere near being the alligator closest to your teachers boat. Teachers everywhere are trying to figure out a completely different style of teaching on the fly (especially those who teach the younger grades). While they’re doing this they’re also worried about some of their children being safe at home, having enough to eat, and if those students are going to even have a home while this crisis lasts.

Rest assured your child(ren)’s teacher(s) care about them, they have invested a lot of time into every student in their care. They want to see “their kids” succeed and are likely crushed that they will not be spending time with their classes in the coming weeks. Events like class plays, field trips, proms, and graduations are all cancelled or potentially cancelled. There are children who were just having concepts click, finally making gains in essential skills and now they are in a holding pattern. All of these examples represent countless work hours by both teachers and their students. Please know teachers everywhere are losing sleep worrying about children in their class and trying to figure out how to make sure their students get the best possible education in a completely unprecedented situation. Please give them time to deal with these alligators. They are dealing with all of these worries in addition to the ones we all currently share. I promise they will get to you. These are trying times and while you are worried about your children, understandably, just remember that the teacher you’re frustrated with is worrying about dozens.

Groceries with Gingers…

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written due to a combination of busyness, working on other writing projects, flu, visitors, and general life with the Gingers. I’m trying to get back in the routine.

A trip to the grocery store with Little Ginger the other day reminded me that shopping with small humans is always a gamble….

Groceries with Gingers is much like Tuesdays with Morrie in that lessons are learned and anecdotes are shared. Unlike “Tuesdays” there’s a much higher chance of mortification and possible unintentional swearing…

When Big Ginger was my Little (and only) Ginger, he had a deep love for the song “Uptown Funk.” We played it nonstop- I can’t hear any version of the phrase “I’m too hot” without feeling immediately compelled to add a “HOT DAMN!” regardless of circumstances.

It can get awkward, but not as awkward as Big. Ginger’s tragic mispronunciation of the word funk at age three. I’m sure you all can see where this is headed… We were at the grocery store, enjoying their music and a much needed break when we came across the group from a local retirement community, also out on their weekly shop. I’m fairly confident they had not listened to Uptown Funk on repeat on the ride over (but this totally reminds me I have a great story for next time). As we were in the aisle with all of these sweet old ladies who were waving to Big Ginger and telling him what a good boy he was to help me with the shopping, he chose that moment to look at me and say,

“Mommy, I don’t like this music! It’s time to sing the F$%# you up song! Let’s sing the F$%# you up song. You start Mommy- F$%#. YOU. UP!”

The kid had the clarity of diction you’d expect from an evening news anchor. There was no pretending he’d said something else, it would have been easier to convince people Walter Cronkite wasn’t really saying, “And that’s the way it is.”

There is never a hole to crawl into when you REALLY need one. So, we did the walk of shame down what was apparently the worlds longest cereal aisle and moved in with our day. We switched to listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack shortly thereafter and he promptly misheard the lyrics to “Helpless” as “Topless”. It was marginally better and I’m big on celebrating the small wins. A preschooler singing “I’m TOPLESS” earns fewer glares in public – verified by my highly unscientific and embarrassing study.

I had actually managed to successfully repress forget about this until I had Little Ginger at the grocery store last week. A very sweet and proper elderly lady started talking to LG in the checkout line and told her she had pretty hair and she liked her coat. She went on to ask LG if she liked shopping with Mummy. Little Ginger took a deep breath, looked up at this lovely woman making pleasant conversation in the store and said, completely deadpan,

“Did you know that it’s REALLY important that blood stays inside your body?”

It’s nice to know that mortifying grocery story experiences know no national boundary. I smiled weakly at the rather shocked lady in line and mumbled something about learning/science/school. She gave me and (I’m sure she thought) my little potential serial killer plenty of space for the rest of the checkout experience.

I guess there’s no real way to wrap this up beyond saying if anyone from a grocery delivery service is reading this and wants to sponsor me, it would probably be best for everyone.

Moments Dear and Not So

So, one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen on social media is this:

Profound, right?

Along with everyone else, I’m thinking about the last decade and the changes it brought. There’s a lot to be said about having a December birthday and having your personal milestones wrapped up with a big one celebrated by A LOT of people… and it’s been extensively covered by many others so I won’t rehash that here. I will say the weirdness seems to jump up a notch when you have a December birthday with a birth year ending in nine. It’s convenient because I always know what number needs to go in the ones column of my age -a hack I’m finding needing more useful as time marches on and I’m left occasionally unsure of the day of the week.

However, it also means that my personal decade meltdowns milestones coordinate with everyone’s and it can be a tad much at points. This one seems to have more gravitas than any of its predecessors. It think it’s because this is the first chunk of ten years where I’ve been (or at least pretended to be) and adulty adult the entire time. This was the decade of transatlantic moves (where I was one of the adults responsible for making it happen) and parenthood; it’s been terrifying, exhilarating, awe-striking, heart melting, and at times excruciatingly real.

Which brings me back to the quote above (If you’ve read my posts before you knew I’d get there eventually). Based on the above Broadway math, there are 600 not so dear moments in each year, so roughly 6,000 not so dear moments in a decade. That’s about 4 days and some change of not stellar moments. That’s not too bad for ten years, but in my more pessimistic moments reviewing the last decade, it seems unrealistically low.

For me, this decade has had some of the highest highs and lowest lows. I’ve had some amazing gains (please refer to- Ginger, Big and Little) and life experiences for which I am forever grateful. I’ve gained a better understanding of who I am and where I’m going. I can honestly say that when I’m reviewing the balance sheet of the decade, the dear moments make anything and everything else worth it.

On the other hand, it has also been the decade where the fact of loss has made itself more prominently known both in my life and in those close to me. I’ve also lost intangibles as my views on issues and others have shifted. The most impactful probably being my evolving body image and food. This is a welcome reminder that not all loss comes without gain.

I think a side effect of parenthood is you become more acutely aware of the passage of time through the bittersweet dichotomy of having to say goodbye to cherished stages while marveling at the ever-changing small human in front of you.

So, I’ve fully contradicted myself numerous times in a relatively short amount of writing and I’m now going to attempt to tie it all together. Stand back, this could get messy.

In times of loss, I’ve looked to the words of others to help me make sense of what has happened. Colin Murray Parkes, a British psychiatrist, has made a great impact.

The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love:it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.

-Dr. Colin Murray Parkes

(Incidentally, I’m not alone in this, Queen Elizabeth II has paraphrased this sentiment and the quote is often misattributed to her. All in all, not too shabby company to be in. )

Back to the task at hand, where I attempt to reconcile a hilarious Tumblr post with profound advice from an expert on loss. I’ve come to the conclusion that the not so dear moment math is probably correct. This is because the not so dear are probably best reserved for my woodland creature crises and other moments that are now hilarious. My moments of loss don’t count not so dear, because they are the product of having loved and been loved deeply and well. Those are truly moments so dear and worth every tear and heartache.

The times I’ve tripped and fallen in public, those I could happily lose, along with a fair amount of middle school…

Now I’ve sort of wrapped up a decade for me… I’ve been trying to do this for weeks now and can’t quite wrap it up the way I want to. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last decade, I’ve learned where I draw boundaries, I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever imagined. I’ve paid the price for loving and being loved and I’ll continue to pay it without complaint because I know how lucky I am to be here at forty and to have so much to look forward to. I’m grateful that I know myself so much better than I did ten years ago. I’m not just saying that because I finally found a shirt that describes me to a tee (see what I did there??)

Happy New Year everyone!

Hal, Mavis, and An Unnamed Peacock

So, when we left off last time; we’d arrived safely, started our marathon hotel stay, and needed to find a house… A few hours after arrival we hopped in the car to look at a possibility.

At that point in time Father of Gingers had started to look and the house hunt had not been going well. He’d seen a few that just weren’t going to work and was more hopeful that this one might be a match for our list. Bleary-eyed we headed off to the house.

It had some very good points – decent yard (garden), Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs, but also had a minor issue in the fact that a not-insignificant percentage of the interior was painted what can only be described as Pepto Bismal pink. If you’ve seen the wedding scene from Steel Magnolias, imagine that- but pinker. BG, who’s going through a “distaste of all things that could be considered girly phase” wasn’t sure he could live there. LG, on the other hand claims the unicorn as her spirit animal and was more like, “I live here now!” I seriously think she was contemplating moving in without us.

We decided to keep looking at listings and hope that house would be available as a fall back. At that point I’d been up for the better part of forty-eight hours and wasn’t sure what exactly was going on but I was pretty sure I would feel like I’d been slapped in the retinas every day with that paint scheme.

Motivated by the prospect of Pepto interiors, I hopped back on RightMove to see if any other listings had come up. There were two that looked like they could be winners. One was a farm house that had a snug (I’m still not one hundred percent sure what that is, but at the time, I felt passionately about it) and one that kind of looked like an old Tudor house. We got times to tour both scheduled and continued to obsessively check listings settled into wait.

The day of the first tour for the farm house arrived. I was woken by the gentle chirping of birds and the first rays of sunshine.

No, no, I wasn’t.

I was woken by LG gagging and crying as we heard the unmistakeable sounds of retching. She and I spent the morning taking turns changing outfits and hosing off with pauses to attempt to clean out the Pack and Play. I told BG to go wild on screen time and try not to breathe in any germs. Then the email came, the first people to come look at the farm house had snatched it up, and our viewing was canceled. I mopped up LG yet again, started a load of laundry and watched some Daniel Tiger. Sadly, Daniel doesn’t have a little jingle to deal with real estate disappointments.

LG recovered from her bug and we spent the weekend waiting to go look at the next house. We decided that short of a major haunting, we were going to take it and anything from moderate haunting down, we would happily live with. The house looked promising and I was REALLY trying not to get my hopes up as there was at least one showing before us.

The big day came- I got myself and the Gingers dressed in our best “we’re totally normal people who you’d love to have living in this house” outfits and away we went. We drove over and the front gate opened… (Yes, I said front gate, things are about to get a tad Downton Abbey). We walked to the front door and the family who was touring before us came out. I did my best not to stare them down. It was a challenge. We also were doing our best to not look completely over eager, but hotel living may have put a dent in that effort.

We walked through the front door and into the kitchen where I saw this:

And then this

They were promptly named Hal and Mavis (in my mind- I managed to have some self control) and I decided that I lived here now and was busy frantically trying to communicate this to FoG with only my eyes. He did not have the same instant attachment to Hal and Mavis and we did a walk through of the rest of the house to make sure we were set on things like bedrooms and bathrooms (this was probably a good thing). All the boxes were checked and we said we’d take it then and there. We were set, we’d just have to wait about a month and some change.

We went back to the hotel, the previously mentioned aggressively quaint Air BnB, then back to the hotel, and then to stay at a friend’s house. All the while I kept a Downton Abbey-esque vision in my head, fueled by the fact that a former “great house” was less than a quarter mile away and the area our house is in was the support village for the big house. I didn’t really see myself as a member of the family who lives in the big house, or the household staff. I’m more of the mind set of minor villager who makes an appearance at the yearly fair with an award- winning cake or something.

Move in day finally came! We headed over with our nine pieces of luggage, two Gingers, and assorted other paraphernalia. We pulled up to the gate and were greeted by this sight:

Yup- that is a full blown peacock. I promptly turned over the keys and he lives in the house now. I hope he’s happy.

Kidding. I’m kidding. However given my track record with nature and my fear of birds, I feel like it would’ve been understandable. My family didn’t agree so we pushed forward. I’m happy to report as of this writing there have not been any run ins with the unnamed peacock and I’ve only been stuck in the car once waiting out a pheasant who was taking his sweet time exploring the joint.

So we moved in- and all we had to do was wait for a week for all of our household goods, without internet, and one car. Piece of cake, sort of, kind of, well- I mean- we survived it.

I’ll write about that later.

“NOW we in England!”…

Hi!

So, it’s been a while…way longer than I planned. Apparently moving two gingers across the Atlantic is incredibly time consuming. Who knew? We wound up being in transit from Memorial Day to Labor Day and it has been a journey. Internet is still working it’s way to our house, which has also caused delays as doing this on my phone is tricky*. I have fallen in love with a wonderful little coffee/tea place- they have WiFi, which one reason for the love, the other reason is this:

It’s a serious infatuation. If I could live off Earl Grey and scones I would. I may try.

Because it’s been such a long time, I’m going to try and hit a few highlights. There will be more stories to come but if I try to write everything this post is going to go on forever.

Let’s start with the plane ride over- seems like a logical place. I was doing well until the last day or two before the trip. Father of Gingers went two weeks ahead of us to get started on his job and look for houses. I had been insanely stupid a tad overconfident as I assured everyone of course I could handle this. Anyway, one case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth for Little Ginger and myself in the week before go-time later**, it was time to go. It took two cars, my parents, and some dear friends to get us to the airport. Why, you ask? It’s one woman traveling with two children, isn’t that a bit of overkill?

You wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask this, all I can do is clarify that my airport list was:

  • 5 checked bags
  • 4 carry on bags
  • 3 sets of passports
  • 2 bemused Gingers
  • 1 me
  • We made to Heathrow unscathed. The Gingers rocked the trip, completely redeeming themselves for every sleepless night they’d caused in their entire lives. Passport control was cleared without tears and all passports accounted for, thankfully none of my stress dreams came true (including the one where Kate Middleton is the passport agent and I’m trying to act totally nonchalant). We made our way to baggage claim and it was time to claim our approximately 250lbs of baggage (I wish I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but I’m not). The now very sleepy Gingers rose to the challenge and we got it all loaded on two trolleys and off we went to meet up with FoG in arrivals! I sounded like a deranged motivational speaker as I wore LG in a backpack, pushed a trolley, pulled a suitcase, and helped BG with his trolley. After a lot of,
  • “Okay buddy, you’ve got to push down on the handle to make it go..”

    “We CAN do this!”

    “I know you can’t really see over the trolley, follow my voice and keep going straight!”

    “No no no! Straight!”

    “Sorry!”

    “Oops- sorry again!”

    “Not much further- we just have to get through those doors!”

    We got through customs, probably made a lasting impression on our fellow travelers, and met up with FoG. Then it was time to head to the hotel and get unpacked and organized crash for a few hours then the house hunt began. The house hunting will be a story for another day.

    All in all we were in the hotel/long stay apartments and one assertively quaint Air BnB for the next six weeks. For the record- if an Air BnB has furniture that looks like it belongs on the set of Sherlock, there’s horsehair involved, and you can feel springs in the furniture- you’ve definitely wandered into assertively quaint territory.

    On a final note for this post- apparently the hotel wasn’t in England according to LG. When we left the hotel and headed into the town we were staying in, she’d look at me, nod, and say as authoritatively as a two year old can,

    “NOW we in England!”

    I guess she had a point.

    *UPDATE- we now have Internet. I no longer feel like I’m on my way to being a minor character in the Downton Abbey kitchen (I was going to say Little House on the Praire, but- it’s England) I’m off to put away my butter churn now

    **This is pretty par for the course- remind me to tell you about the stomach bug coming through the house four days before LG signed on with us.

    Bag of Hair Blues…

    So, the last month has been pretty heavily consumed with moving stuff. I go back and forth between, “I’ve totally got this, it’s all manageable and under control” and “HOLY FORKING SHIRTBALLS THE MOVERS ARE COMING!” (This was the second most famous phrase by Paul Revere) I may also be watching The Good Place when I have a moment… (according to the wise sages who write BuzzFeed quizzes, I’m a combo of Chidi and Janet- in case anyone was wondering)

    Okay, back on topic now. Moving means sorting and trying to purge. If I do say so myself, I’m doing a much better job than I have in past moves and have managed to get rid of a lot. I do not like purging. Some of it is I’m always convinced as soon as I get rid of something I’m going to need it. The fact that I’ve found some, um, interesting surprises while cleaning out in the past also significantly factors into my reluctance. However, Marie Kondo would totally give me a gold star right now… until she saw my dresser.

    My dresser has a problem. It kind of looks like it could belong to a serial killer. You may be asking why right now…Is there a dark side to me that you never knew about? Are we about to learn about an ill-advised goth phase in my past?

    No.

    It’s just that my dresser happens to be home to a bag of hair and some teeth that are not mine.

    I guess I need to explain more.

    Let’s start with the bag of hair. When Big Ginger was about fifteen months old, we took him for his first hair cut. We were still living in Germany and I grabbed a Ziploc bag on my way out the door, thinking I might want to save a lock of hair from his first haircut. We got to the hairdressers and I explained (I thought) that I just wanted the first lock of hair to save. She gave me a strange look but said okay. BG was seated with Father of Gingers and the haircut started. I stood there clutching my sandwich baggie, possibly with a few tears welling up in my eyes, and she handed me the first lock of hair. I put it in the bag carefully, and got ready seal it up, and then, before I knew it, the hair dresser was handing me another lock of hair, I accepted it, and tucked it in next to the first.

    Then she gave me another. And another. I kept on collecting locks of hair in my little Ziploc baggie while trying to figure out if there was a way to politely ask her to please stop giving me hair. I couldn’t come up with anything and resigned myself to being the weird American with the bag of hair. We brought it home and I couldn’t bring myself to reach in and pull out a chunk for safe keeping, so I put it in my dresser and didn’t think much more of it. I took BG to a different barber shop from then on so I wouldn’t have to be the “weird bag of hair chick” or worse, find myself with an ever-growing collection of bags of hair. That’s how you wind up on the news, and not in a good way.

    The teeth were less of a cultural misunderstanding situation and more a “I’m not exactly sure what to do about this” scenario. BG started losing teeth a few years ago and I felt weird throwing out a piece of my kid. Also, FoG was traveling for work and I didn’t want him to miss out on the full experience. I should probably also mention at that time Little Ginger was still waking up twice a night and I was running on four-ish hours of sleep on a good night. My decision -making processes may not have been at their most coherent. So, I now have a little drawer full of teeth.

    And my dresser has a creepy vibe.

    I guess on the upside it’s not a shrunken head, right?

    Maybe it’s time for me to look into Swedish death cleaning?

    Your move, Marie Kondo.

    Lamaze breathing, repurposed…

    So, the gingers are safely with their grandparents and Father of Gingers and I are in England looking around at places to live/ having an early tenth anniversary trip.

    FoG arrived early for work and I caught up with him yesterday. The flight over was so nice and peaceful, and I loved having some travel time to myself. As I might have mentioned before, I’m in one of my favorite countries, as I’m might have mentioned before, and I’m ready to start this adventure. Nowthat we’re all up to speed…

    When I’m not dreaming of high school the other stress dream/ nightmare I’ve had for years, pretty much since I learned to drive- is that I’m trying to dive the car from the wrong seat and having to reach over to use the steering wheel. As we’ve discussed before, I REALLY like having things under control, so I think it’s safe to assume the dream is about my control freak tendencies has something to do with that.

    Well, yesterday I was literally living the dream.

    FoG picked me up from the train station, I hopped into my seat, looked for the steering wheel, noticed it was AWOL, and then remembered I was in England. In my defense, I didn’t sleep on the plane so I’d been up for about twenty-six hours at that point. I pulled myself together and got ready to get back on the road. I should probably mention that FoG was on day two of driving on the wrong (to us) side of the road.

    Then I tried to grab the gear shift.

    At that point I decided it was best to hold the phone in my right hand while watching the map to reduce the temptation to grab the gearshift. I sat on the left, looked out the window with a view unobstructed by steering wheel or dashboard instruments and quietly chanted, “It’s okay, it’s okay” to myself. I’d take breaks in chanting to assist with navigating and reassure FoG this was not editorializing on his driving. Fortunately he was totally understanding and had bigger fish to fry. Right hand turns have taken on a whole new meaning in his world, mine too.

    We’ve now made several car trips without incident.

    On a related note- both Gingers signed on to our organization via C-section so I always assumed those hours we spent in childbirth classes before Big Ginger were just a write off. Now I’m happy to report those breathing and relaxation techniques are excellent for working through learning to be on the wrong side of the car and/or feeing like you’re in a stress dream.

    I don’t think I’ll be attempting to drive on this trip since it’s going to be a short one. Also, I have a feeling it’s going to take a while if my original leaning to drive experience is anything to go on. I’m also flirting with the idea of writing a book, this would definitely give me some serious material. I should probably brush up on my breathing techniques too..