Thursday, August 25, 2016

Off To High School--Round One

My son is starting high school in a couple weeks. 

Whaaaaaat? I both kind of can't believe it and feel totally okay with it. Yesterday we registered Peyton and got his schedule and got his locker. Then he had a team dinner with the football team. He seems appropriately confident and nervous. He seems ready.

Yesterday I had a talk with him that was equal parts "I Hope You Dance"/I will fucking kill you if you get messed up with drugs/grades matter/hard work matters/I will love you through all of it. He nodded while I just kept talking and talking. I have no idea if I was saying the right things or if it was too much or not enough. At one point I even admitted to eating "space cake" when I was in Amsterdam but followed up with "I was 20 and it was legal!" Ahhhhh! I stopped there because I'm not ready to tell him all the things I did or know if I even ever should. Oh hell, I have no idea! I switched gears quickly and talked about identity and threw out a Jay-Z quote because he's still cool right? Ugh. OMG. I ended with "well you get it right? I love you and I want you to have fun and know who you are and be good and be safe."

A bit cheesy? Maybe. Too much? Maybe. But god dammit I love that kid and I want him to carpe diem all the opportunities during high school. And um, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. I just want him to have a sense of self and a sense of belonging in our family and know that we have his back (but we will also hold him accountable!). 

Years ago, my much younger brother, Harrison, was visiting us right before he started high school. Peyton was two and Lucy was a baby. We had a party, with just us, to celebrate Uncle Harry going to high school. 

Balloon hats were all the rage in our little kid house at the time, so we made one for Uncle Harry. 

We also made a cake and had streamers and signs and made him wear a tie. It was cute and fun and Uncle Harry was a good sport. "Someday we'll do this for you," I told a smiley, little Peyton. "When you go off to high school, you will get a balloon hat party."

Last night it was his turn. The balloon hat tradition continued and just like his uncle, Peyton was a good sport.

It was silly, but just as important to me as the big/cheesy/heavy talk. Traditions and a sense of humor are a big part of the family he belongs to. A family that celebrates together and talks to each other and laughs together and loves through all the ups and downs and carries on silly traditions and serious traditions...that's who we are. And my god, I'm hoping that helps Peyton and each of my kids as they grow up and carpe diem the hell out of middle school and high school and jesus, adulthood. And of course make good decisions and even if they mess up, and ahhhhh, I have no idea what I'm doing! Seriously, jumping into this next phase with my fingers crossed. :)

Here's the Jay-Z quote I used (I love it and have used it before and you better believe I will use it again. I believe it.):

"Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great."


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rebelling Against Time

"You are never going to believe why I'm here," I told the nurse who came into my room at the doctor's office. "I think I'm going through menopause stuff! I mean isn't that crazy?" 

The nurse did not look shocked, not shocked at all. She smiled kindly, nodded and then typed something into her computer. "The doctor will be in to see you soon," she said and then left. She did not say "oh my gosh, no way, you look so young, menopause? No way, it's probably something else, because you are so young, I mean weren't you just in here having babies? I'm sure it's something else that isn't scary or for old people..I mean you are so young." Nope, she didn't say that. She was not shocked.

The doctor wasn't either. She listened to me talk about how hot I was getting at night and how my anxiety was getting worse and how my metabolism stopped altogether and that my hair was thinning and how I overreact even worse than I used to and well, she listened to a lot.  "Can you test my hormones, because something is going on," I begged.

"I could test your hormones but they would be different tonight and then different tomorrow," she explained. "It sounds like you are experiencing peri-menopause and well, it's just a really hard time."

I was shocked. "But, um, wha....," I stammered. "How long will this last?," I asked.

"Two years or 10, it's different for everyone," she informed me.

What the fuck? Are you serious? I just spent a decade having babies and gaining weight and losing weight, managing high hormones and low hormones, bouncing back, getting in a groove and now I have to spend a decade doing it all over again? And  I have to do it while having teenagers going through their own hormonal struggles. Are you serious?

It seems ridiculous. My teenagers and I will all be raging together and bonding over how to deal with our acne, except I will be having a hot flash and wishing I could Botox my forehead wrinkles because I'm old and not a teenager.

"Who do I rebel against?," I asked my doctor.  "It's not like I can steal the car and smoke cigarettes and get drunk on peach wine coolers like I did when I was going through puberty. How am I going to deal with this? I'm the mom."

My doctor told me I will be okay. She suggested I try journaling and meditation and exercise. Ugh.

I left still in shock. I almost stopped at the 7-11 to pick up a pack of Marlboro's and some Seagram's wine coolers, but I didn't. Over the next couple weeks, I talked to friends....friends who had gone through menopause or are close to it. One friend told me that a woman in her book club had said "in this day and age, there is no reason a woman should have to deal with menopause." Amen! Another friend described estrogen as the "give a damn hormone" and without it she really didn't....give a damn.

As I am being dragged down the hot, sweaty path of peri-menopause, I refuse to go quietly. I kind of dig the idea of not giving a damn and rebelling. I choose to rebel against age and stereotypes and ridiculous expectations. I hope I put my loss of estrogen to good use--fight for more causes I believe in and not worrying about what people think. I hope I won't get embarrassed about my aging or my thinning hair, or too hard on myself. 

I still think I'm young-ish for all this peri-menopause stuff, but I guess not. I'm 42, but still feel 35. lol. 
I bought this mug last year when I was all "let's do this 40s!" I'm not so pumped now. But I am going to look at this whole getting older as a new beginning. It's what it's all about right beginning again and again and getting smarter and stronger and softer and more vulnerable and compassionate. 

Being a woman is not for the weak. We go through a lot. We really are badasses. I am going to journal about that. My meditation mantra is going to be "I am a badass mother who can do anything." My doctor was right, I think I will be okay, maybe better than okay. A little rounder, a little tougher, a tad moodier, but okay.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Road Trip Stories: The Beach

Last month part of our road trip was spent on the beach. It.was.amazing. We were scheduled to travel to Atlanta, Georgia for JT's baseball tournament and I thought if we drove that far we should just keep driving after the tournament to Tybee Island (it's only 3-ish hours from Atlanta!).

We have been to Tybee Island a few times over the years. In fact, it's the only ocean/beach experience my kids have ever had. The other times we visited were part of big family reunions, the kind where you stay in a house with 25 other people. Those are awesome, but I was looking forward to having a beach experience with just my family. 

And now that my family is full of older kids, kids that aren't in diapers and don't need naps, going to the beach was so much more fun. The kids read on the beach and played in the waves. We only had one minor swallowed too much water and a little bit of sand incident with Wade. The kids enjoyed collecting shells and jumping waves. They marveled at sunsets and glimpses of dolphins.

At one point I was swimming in the ocean a little off to the side of my four kids and I was watching them. My heart felt like it was going to burst with love and happiness and gratitude. I felt so much peace. Just like other times during our road trip, I started singing a song from Hamilton (because I mean we listened to the soundtrack 1,432 times and became obsessed and it really was the soundtrack of our trip). I kept hum-singing this line from one of the songs--"isn't it great to be alive right now." YES! I am so glad I got to live that moment and feel it so big and with so much love and gratitude and awareness. 

This kid especially loved the beach and the waves and the fishing and asked if we could move there. I so wanted to say yes.

I love the palm trees and all the colors on the island--from the colors in the sky to the buildings.

Even their hurricane category sign is bright and cheery.

One thing I am particularly giddy and proud about was that I paid for the house I rented with money I earned from my part-time jobs. Sounds silly, but it meant a lot to me. The house was adorable and the perfect size for us. It had a backyard and was only a short walk to the ocean. (I rented through a company called Mermaid Cottages and would highly reccommend using them if you ever find yourself going to Tybee Island.)

It had an outdoor shower that I FELL IN LOVE WITH! Who knew?

The property also had a side yard with this tree that was magnificent. There was a swing too and lime trees! It all felt very magical.

I wish I could run away and open up a souvenir shop on the beach and we could all live in the apartment upstairs. And maybe I will someday, maybe I will. But for now I will hold tight to the wonderful memories and adventures and laughs and sunsets we had together, and remember what a great time it was to be alive right then and there, and I will smile and feel happy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Road Trip Stories-- Advocacy in D.C., Using Your Voice

I have written a lot of blog posts over the years about how the world is full of so much bad news and how it can all be overwhelming and so hard to stay a light-seeking, positive person. Because there really is so much bad news. And now the election? Oh hell, the election. I have a lot of friends who say they just need a media break or who want to stop watching the news altogether and not pay attention at all. And I get that, I totally get that. Unplugging for a while is good, it's necessary for mental health. But, the only way I know how to feel calmer and more positive and more hopeful is actually getting more involved, paying closer attention and doing something. Volunteering, service, helping out, learning, educating, protesting, supporting, empowering, fighting for and fighting against...using my voice....that's the only way I know how to feel less afraid and less overwhelmed.

When I was asked if my family wanted to take part in a protest/play-in at the Capitol in D.C. for a bi-partisan organization that fights for kids' health, I thought it would be the perfect way to kick off our road trip. Because there is so much bad news and damn, this election, and I want to help make a difference and show my kids that they have a voice and a choice about how they use it. So, we added D.C. to our itinerary and made our way to the nation's capitol. 

Before we left we got books out from the library about founding fathers and former Presidents and the White House. We listened to the entire soundtrack of Hamilton over and over on the way to D.C. We had long conversations about politics and process and policy and how to create change. We had long talks about things we want to try and make better in the world. We talked about climate change and what environmental justice means, and so much more. 

The protest/play-in was being hosted by Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), a special project of the Environmental Defense Fund. MCAF is a community of moms and dads united against air pollution--including the crisis of our changing climate--to protect children's health.  I've been writing and volunteering with them for a few years now. They are a wonderful organization that not only mobilizes moms (and dads) but also teaches them how to be activists and advocates. They call it "Naptime Activism" on their web site which includes an online action center to help make it easy and fast for "busy parents to make their voices heard while baby naps."

For the third year, MCAF brought together moms from all 50 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to participate in the Play-In for Climate Action. 

"We know that our children's health is at stake and their future is at stake and we want to see action on climate change," said Gretchen Dahlkemper, National Field Director of MCAF, regarding the Play-In. 

I love this event because it was not passive in any way. The kids participated in every moment of the day including decorating signs, listening to speakers, dancing to a band and meeting with senators' staff on Capitol Hill.  They got to see the process in Washington and be a part of it. They got the opportunity to use their voice to try and create positive change. 

I hope the kids learned a lot from this experience. I hope they learned that activism and community organizing can be fun and so fulfilling and an opporuntiy to truly connect with people. I hope they learned that change is possible. I hope they learned to use their voice but also to listen-- to their neighbors and friends and politicians and people that agree with them and people that don't agree with them. I hope they learned to be respectful and hopeful. I hope they learned that they can be angry and scared but also passionate, positive light seekers. I sure did.

He wasn't so into me taking so many pictures. lol

JT jumped at every chance to get involved from making signs to learning a dance and then performing it at the end of the Play-In. It was fun to watch him be so open to every experience of the day.

They asked if I minded being on camera. Um, NO! lol. 

To me, it's all about taking action and getting more involved, paying closer attention and doing something! That's when I feel less anxious and afraid and overwhelmed and hopeless.

We sang Hamilton songs (in our heads or quietly to each other) off and on all day. Like when we went into the offices of senators, we whisper-sang "I want to be in the room where it happens." Lol.

I was so proud of Lucy when she talked about how climate change has made her friends' allergies worse and how it makes her upset. I was also proud of Peyton when he talked to this young staff member about going to college and how to get into the University of Michigan. Both Peyton and Lucy are introverts and were nervous to speak to people, but they did and they were proud too.

If you want to get involved with or learn more about Moms Clean Air Force click here
I have learned SO MUCH about helping to make the air cleaner and to fight for climate action and environmental justice and how to be an advocate from MCAF.

Here's an awesome recap video from the Play-In (which features a sweet cameo of JT and me).

(Click here to watch the video.)