Thursday, July 30, 2015

Seriously Sirius?

I may never go upstairs again. Nope, never. At least not into my daughter's room upstairs.  That's because she is now the proud owner of a rodent for a pet. Yup, we bought her a hamster.   It all happened so fast and my guard was down and well, now a little fuzzy, black, rat-looking rodent sleeps in a cage next to my daughter's bed. She named him Sirius Black after the Harry Potter character.  

All I can do is scratch my head and ask Seriously, Sirius? 

I hate hamsters. I hate chipmunks and mice and squirrels and rats and raccoons and ahhhhhh! I don't wish these creatures any ill will, I just choose to not ever be in the same space with them outside or inside.  That goes for birds too. And deer. And even the dog that lives down the street.  I'm not really an animal lover or a nature lover (like I've said before, I support nature I just don't love being in it).  

A few weeks ago Lucy wrote me a letter asking for a hamster. She detailed all the good work she'd done over the past 11 years.  She made hefty, yet seemingly realistic, promises like "If I get a hamster I'll keep my room clean for two weeks."

Maybe I was feeling guilty because Lucy goes to 5 million baseball games of her brothers and really doesn't like sports.  Maybe I was still tired from our month of traveling.  Maybe I was overheated from my crazy hormones and the 90-degree weather we are finally having here in Michigan.  Maybe I was too busy reading about Ben and Jen's break-up and hoping the nanny rumors weren't true.  Whatever it was, I said "okay" without really looking up when Tim said that he and Lucy were going to the pet store to pick up a hamster.  Okay? What the hell was I thinking?

This non animal/nature loving person now has two dogs, two fish and a fucking hamster in the house.  What is going on? I mean what the seriously Sirius hell is happening?

I have to hand it to Lucy and her tween brilliance.  It's like she knew-- if I get this hamster, mom will be so afraid to come in my room, she just won't. I win. I beat mom. And I got a hamster. Boosh.

I love my daughter, but I detect some tween smugness in this picture don't you?

What she doesn't know is that my desire to figure her out and not let her get away with any tween/teen tomfoolery is bigger than my fear of the fuzzy, black, rat-looking rodent that sleeps in a cage next to her bed.  For now, I'll let her think she's won. When she grows up I will tell her about all the sacrifices I made and fears I conquered to protect her. 

The boys were getting a kick out of the rodent
and out of my fear of it.

While the kids and Tim were setting up the rodent's cage/home, I was reading all about the little guy. It turns out hamsters only live about two years.  I can do two years, I think. Right? 

But I will never, ever clean the cage. Ever. I mean seriously.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ThrowBack Family

Yesterday was the first day of vacation bible school at our church.  The kids aren't used to getting up early and it was a little rough for some of them.  When I suggested that Lucy brush her teeth, she rolled her eyes and groaned.  It went down hill from there--shoes couldn't be found, eyes continued to roll, tempers were lost, tears were shed. It was a mess.

"We are going to church to learn about Jesus and being nice, and we need to pull ourselves together," I screamed.  "Now get in the damn car!"

Not my best parenting moment to be sure, but admittedly not my worst either. 

After the screaming and the crying, it was off to church to learn about Jesus and kindness and maybe most importantly about redemption and love.  And play games, sing songs and get a snack.

Even though yesterday morning was pretty messy, I am not overly concerned about my kids or my parenting.  Bad mornings are just a part of it all.  Parenting isn't this glossy exercise in perfection. At least that isn't my parenting, or life, experience.

The other night the whole family watched the movie E.T.  We forced the older kids to put away phones and iPads, and snuggled together with the little ones under blankets.  At first there were snickers of laughter about how old the movie was.  But then there was concern for the "weird looking alien guy" and Elliot.  Later we were all kind of snickering with laughter at the old-fashioned, clunky special effects--when E.T. makes the bikes fly through the air, the scene that amazed me beyond anything when I was a kid, looked sort of awkward and ridiculous.  My kids are used to the Marvel special effects and 3-D everything and E.T. is not that.  But the kids got the heart of the movie, which to me is love and wonder and believing and faith in each other.

Watching the movie as a parent was a little different.  I was struck by how different the kids were, how independent but loving. Kids in a lot of TV shows and movies these days are snarky and sarcastic and rebelling against stupid parents. The kids in this movie were funny and smart. The adults were complicated and troubled but not stupid. Elliot and his brother and sister cared about each other and their mother.  They didn't want to upset their mother because she was dealing with their father leaving her, leaving them.

"You'd totally stand by one of your brothers if they came to you and told you they had an alien in their closet right?," I asked Lucy after we got back from church yesterday.  

"What?," she said with a mild eye roll, like she was exhausted by my question.  

"You know, like E.T., you guys would be like those kids and help each other out, right?," I replied earnestly.

"Okay, yeah, we'd totally hide the alien from you," she said laughing.

"Good, I hope so," I told her.  "I hope you kids have each other's backs."  

I've spent a lot of time with my kids this summer. A lot. While we are so god damn far from perfect, I think they are pretty rad. Even when the hormones of the tween and teen kick in, there are no people I would rather spend my time with.  And I truly believe they would hide the alien and help each other out.

You see, we aren't some glossy, big-budget, out-of-this-world, special-effects-filled new movie full of perfection. No, I see us as more of a sort of throwback to a simpler, clunkier, low-budget movie that is full of heart and story.  And kids that would stick together and figure it out and have some kick-ass bike-riding skills.

THE bike scene from E.T. (Click here to watch.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Sense Of Self--BlogHer15

When I was eight years old I danced my guts out in the middle of a mall. It was choreographed by my dance teacher, but I picked the song and I added the one move that stuck with me for over 30 years. The song was "Fame" by Irene Cara and the move was pointing my finger directly at the people watching, looking them in the eyes and singing along out loud that they will "remember" me.  I was warning them/telling them that they would remember me. I was claiming my space in the middle of the mall, and the universe.  That moment mattered.  I knew who I was and wanted to be---a strong, dancey spirit who would do something, who would make a mark.  The moment mattered because in it, I believed I did too.

That dance in the middle of a mall in the early 1980s to an Irene Cara song stayed in my heart and soul. It was the memory I summoned when my parents got divorced, when my mother drank too much, when my dad left, when my mom left, when I got rejected, when I got the job, when I lost the job, when I met the guy, when I had my babies, when I lost two babies, when I struggled with depression, when I landed the show, when I got on stage, when I doubted myself as a daughter or as a mother or as a wife or as a person.

I'm not talking about fame, it was never about that. I'm talking about having a sense of self, a knowledge of my own worth.

Over the years, this knowledge/this inner dancey/bad ass spirit is what saved me from crumbling and succumbing to peer pressure and drugs and gave me resilience to bounce back from some pretty fucking huge mistakes.  I knew that I was somebody that mattered---I didn't just take up space I danced around and in it and demanded to be seen and heard and remembered.

When I went to New York City for BlogHer15, I won an award for dancing in my kitchen (and hopefully spreading joy and realness).

While I was there I heard speakers from the #BlackLivesMatter social media campaign. I cried along with them when they discussed the Sandra Bland case that we were all just learning about. I listened to entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas with true heart and soul. The woman that won the pitch, Majora Carter, gave a moving speech, so moving she herself started crying. She looked at the audience and proudly stated, "I am a female entrepreneur and I am not afraid to cry." The audience roared with support and approval.

The open mic, the workshops, the keynote speakers were all equal parts inspiring and honest and compassionate and challenging. I walked around the conference wanting to hug people, learn from everyone, create something/everything and start a business. It made me want to make a difference, make an impact, be supportive and encouraging and inspiring and respectful.  

The closing speaker, award-winning film director Ava Duvernay, took the stage and talked about doing things "without privilege or ego, but with a sense of personhood." 

In some ways, this past weekend in NYC felt a lot like the middle of the mall in the early 1980s. Instead of just one little girl dancing in the middle of the mall telling the crowd to remember her, it was thousands of women and men coming together to remind each other of our worth and to tell the world they will remember all of us. It was a room full of women and men supporting and encouraging and inspiring and respecting each other. And making one hell of an impact.

Here's THE song with some pretty rad video of NYC in the early 1980s. 

(Click here to watch the video.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Straight Talk- A New Vlog Series (NYC Travel Tips)

It's been a while since I did a straight up vlog...where I just straight up talk about an issue or tell a story. After being inspired creatively at BlogHer 15 in NYC to get back in the video/vlog game, I decided to start doing a new weekly/monthly/whenever segment on my YouTube channel called Straight Talk.  Inspired by the 1992 Dolly Parton movie with the same name, Straight Talk is just going to be me giving advice or telling a story or maybe doing some more slam poetry again.  Awwwww yeah.

For the first installment of Straight Talk, I am giving advice on what NOT to do when you are in LaGuardia Airport.  Check it out.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
And here's my idol Dolly singing the theme song from her movie Straight Talk. I LOVE this so much.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wandering and Wondering

I went to New York City last week.  I have been before but this time felt different. This time I felt overwhelmed in a good way by the buildings, the amount of people everywhere, the interesting of it all, the beauty of it all, the wonder of it all.  I felt a little wide-eyed, but mostly I felt curious.

Even though I was there for a blogging conference ( I can't wait to write about what I learned) and to see friends (I had so much fun with them!), I got a chance to be alone a lot.  I explored and wandered and walked and walked and walked.  I sat in Central Park, stood in the middle of Times Square, lingered in Bryant Park, marveled at the opulence of Fifth Avenue, and people-watched everywhere.

A hot dog in Central Park, so New York.

Years ago I took a carriage ride through Central Park, but Peyton was a baby on my lap and I was more concerned with him and can't remember much.  This time I walked and sat and took in all the beauty. It really is a glorious park.
I didn't have enough money to go into any museums, but loved sitting outside and watching the people and being entertained by the street performers.

I am so intrigued by shadows and lines and design.
When I was 12 years old, I cut out a picture of The Plaza and put it on my bulletin board. "When I grow up, I am going to stay there," I said to myself. I have no idea why I wanted that but I still have that picture. I haven't stayed there (yet) but I did get to go into the lobby and stand on the stairs and my god, it's gorgeous. 

I think it was equal parts amazing-busy city and solitude that made this trip so good. Before I got married and had kids, I took a few trips alone. I walked and walked and took pictures on my disposable camera (because it was a really long time ago). I wandered and wondered.  I talked to strangers and heard stories. I talked to no one. I felt proud and accomplished that I found my way through airports and cities and managed to figure out public transportation. It was empowering and inspiring and I promised myself I would never stop doing it.  But it turns out I didn't want to leave when my babies were little and I wanted to spend the money on trips with them.  While I love traveling with my kids, I mean LOVE it and I hope I'm instilling a sense of wonder/wander in them, this trip helped me rediscover my love of doing it alone too.

This picture was taken in Time Square around 1 a.m.  When they say it's a city that doesn't sleep, they aren't kidding.
So many people!

It's a big, big, beautiful, interesting world. It felt good to get out of where I live and out of my comfort zone.  It didn't make me feel small, instead it made my problems feel small. And it made me feel more connected to the bigness of it all. And curious and interested and like I never want to stop wandering and wondering.

My cab ride to the airport and the sunrise over NYC.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Good People and What I Know For Sure

A couple weekends ago, we went on vacation. A vacation we didn't even know that we desperately needed until we got there and it was possibly the happiest Tim and I have felt in maybe years. 

Life is crazy. It's full of a lot of good stuff, but a lot of stressful stuff too. It's been a particularly tense/upsetting/surreal past six months for Tim with work stress and counseling kids and families at the high school where he is assistant principal.  And well, you know money is always tight and we have a lot of busy kids and it's just a crazy life.  

So when Tim's coworker and his family let us stay in their cottage for free for the second year in a row it just got crazier. Because who does that? Who lets a larger-than-average family stay in their lake house for four days and use their boats and kayaks? For free?  Nice people that's who.  Nice, good people that see a guy who works his ass off to provide for his family and help kids in his high school and mentor kids and sponsor kids that are at boot camp because they have been kicked out of high school, that helps out coworkers and needed a break.  

It's so generous and kind we still can't believe it though.

But what I know for sure right now is that there are nice people in this world and their generosity is appreciated and we will be paying it forward in any way that we can.

Here's a little video of our time at their lake house in northern Michigan.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Let's Hear It For New York

I'm going to New York City tomorrow. Ahhhhh! 

I just bought my plane ticket a few days ago even though I have known I wanted to go on this particular weekend for a couple months now. You see, I'm going to BlogHer, a blogging/social media conference. I'm going to learn things about blogging and social media. I'm going to see old friends and make new ones. I'm going to hopefully run into a celebrity or two. I'm going because I love New York City and haven't been in over a decade. I'm going because I'm getting a little award. Yup, I'm getting an award. The award is not for my writing or any of the cool ass pictures I've been taking with my fancy new camera. Nope this award is for dancing in my kitchen. Pretty cool, right?

One of my Instagram videos of me dancing in my kitchen was nomiated in the Short Form Video Category to receive a Voice of the Year award and it won.  So I have to go, right? I mean it's not everyday, or any day, that I get an award.

(This is the award-winning video!)

So I booked the cheapest flight, the kind where you don't get even a drink of water without an extra charge. And I am Googling "free things to do in NYC" and hoping for good weather so I can just hang out in Central Park for the six hours before the conference starts. Because I've been doing a lot of traveling lately and I'm pretty broke. But who cares, because I'm going to New York City.

I mean I'll be in New York, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do. Okay, I know I'm sounding just like the lyrics to Jay Z and Alicia Keys' song Empire State of Mind.  And so what?! I'm going to be singing it while I twirl and dance through town. I mean I heard those streets will make you feel brand new and that the lights will inspire you. 

I'm ready to be inspired. And I plan on dancing my way through the Big Apple and having a blast. I can't wait!!!!

Come follow along on my adventure on Instagram-- @JumpingWithMyFingersCrossed

And here's THE song that I will have stuck in my head all night long.

(Click here to watch/listen to the video.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Storytelling is EVERYWHERE and 2015 LTYM Videos Are Live!

While I was on the road the past few weeks, I noticed all the storytelling EVERYWHERE. In the museums about all the famous people, i.e. Lisa Marie sharing stories about her dad, Elvis, on our headphones as we toured Graceland.  Or from the people visiting the museums. While at Helen Keller's history museum, I overheard a little girl asking one of the older women that worked there to tell her a story.  

"Did you know my grandpa," the little girl asked.  The older leaned toward her and replied with a thick, sweet southern Alabama accent, "why you know what? I sure did. I knew him since he was a little, bitty boy."  The girl's eyes got wide and she asked, "did you know my great-grandfather?" "Yep," the older woman replied. The little girl hopped up and down with glee. She was mesmerized by the history and the stories the woman told about her grandfathers.

We heard stories from store owners, family, strangers, cousins and each other. 

Stories! They connect us, inspire us, make us angry, make us feel all kinds of feelings good and bad.  Stories are our past, present and future.  I knew it before I left town, but I know it more and I feel it more intensely now.  

That is one of the many, many reasons I am so proud to be a small part of encouraging people to tell their stories and come hear stories.  I am so proud to be a part of Listen To Your Mother (LTYM).  While I was  gone this past weekend, the videos of this past year's LTYM shows went live on YouTube.  There are 500 videos from across the country, click here to start watching.

I am so excited for you to hear all of them, but if I'm being totally honest I am most excited for you to hear the stories from my Detroit show.  I know that you will love them as much as I did/do.

You will meet Sabrina who seems fearless but vulnerable at the same time and you will hear about her journey to accepting herself and learning from her mother to appreciate the now and the wonder of it all.

(Click here to watch the video.) 

And Marlowe who has a fascinating life that you will want to know more about and a story that is down right relatable about being perfectly imperfect.

(Click here to watch the video.)

You'll meet Colin who was our first guy in a Detroit LTYM cast and such a sweet guy.  His story is gut wrenching and honest and beautiful.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Angela is one of the three Angela's in our cast and she is funny and quirky and wonderful. The story she tells is serious and poignant and so touching.

(Click here to watch the video.)

You will meet Christy who is a survivor and a fighter. Her story is about being afraid and brave at the same time.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Liz is the daughter of our mother/daughter cast duo.  She is the daughter we all dream of having--intelligent, kind and so appreciative. Her story is funny and one I hope my daughter tells someday!

(Click here to watch the video.)

You will meet Kim, the mother to Liz, and you will love her. She is freakin funny.  Her stage presence will blow you away and you will want her to keep reading and telling her story forever. 

(Click here to watch the video.)

Delores is next and her story is one that so many mothers of young kids can relate to. It's a story about trying to keep control of your day, your life, your schedule but at the same time have little kids and be in the moment.  Hear how she eased into the silliness.

(Click here to watch the video.)

One of the other Angela's is sort of the resident goofball, the kind of mom that makes everyone feel like they are doing okay. I mean at least I hope that's how I make you feel, otherwise I'm just a goofball.  Here's my story about how I am finally maybe able to be the cool mom, or as I like to call it the Beyonce Mom.

(Click here to watch the video.)

Mona is a woman with an air of elegance. I loved seeing her on stage-- she is poise and grace and style. She is also funny and a fierce mama. Her story is about having children that may look different than you and how society reacts and how that makes her feel.

(Click here to watch the video.) 

You will meet Chitra, a woman I have so much love and respect for. She was supportive and kind to all of us on the day of the show and has been in the days since the show. Her story is about weaving humor into a life of parenting a child with autism and always finding the joy in life.

(Click here to watch the video.)

The thing about stories and LTYM is when you have a "me too" moment.  When you connect with a storyteller and a particular story so much that you find yourself saying "me too."  Diane's story was my "me too" moment this past year.  Diane tells the story about surviving a mother who was troubled and how she can now look back at her mother with compassion and love.  This story hit me hard and the way Diane tells it on stage is all power and strength and softness and raw beauty.

(Click here to watch the video.)

The last video is one of the other Angela's in the show. Angela Amman is my coproducer/codirector/friend.  She is also a beautiful writer and compassionate daughter and mother. She tells a story about having a mother that is different than what she wants, or what she thinks she wants, and about finding a beautiful and lasting connection with her. 

(Click here to watch the video.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pure Michigan With My Fancy New Camera

Again, I find myself with so much to say after a trip. I want to talk about how good it was to be together as a family, just us. How great it was to see my kids playing together and not once asking to play on our phones or the iPad. How this vacation reminded us of simple pleasures of campfires, sunsets and jumping off docks. How the whole thing made Tim and I feel like kids and feel so relaxed and hopeful and like we could find the parts of ourselves that talked about our dreams and futures, all while being totally in the amazingness of the moment. Ahhhhhh! But first I will share a few of the pictures I took on my fancy new camera.  

We stayed in a cottage on a lake with the best view of the sunset. I mean ahhhhhh, right??? This picture is not edited at all. I simply looked up and took this picture.
I think this sunset is art.

There is an older gentleman who has pirate flags on his boat and terrorizes little children with water guns.  Actually, he is this great old guy who loves to have a little fun with the kids and the kids love it.

Another great part of this trip was that we got to bring our dogs.

And yeah, there was a little attitude from the tweens and teens in the group. But this camera even makes that stuff look cool. :)

Cosi might have had the most fun.

We left the cottage for one morning and headed into Petoskey Michigan for a view of the bay and some fudge.

The big city.

Ahhhhhh, it was pure Michigan at it's best.