Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year.

So it's New Year's Eve again. I am in my very festive outfit of jeans, sweatshirt and Converse. I don't really know how to sum up's been trippy. Educational. Revealing. Here are some things that I've learned and taken away from the last year...

  • I don't have to be nice to anyone who is a dick. If this is at work, I will maintain and behave myself within reason. But if you are mean or cruel to a child, heartless and demanding to people I care about, and mostly think about yourself instead of the children we are ALL working for, don't expect anything extra from me. I don't smile, hug, or wave to people I don't like. If it's in my personal life, it's a little easier to pare them away. Boundaries are necessary and wonderful and BRILLIANT, but guess what? People who have gotten used to you always wanting to please don't much care for boundaries. Guess what else? It doesn't matter.
  • The friendships I have managed to maintain over 10, 28, 36 years are priceless. The feelings that I get when I am around these people are hard to describe, but are so incredibly reassuring and comfortable. Sadly, none of these folks are local, but they're also not horribly far away. I resolve to make more of an effort to spend time with ALL of you people. Renee, Lesli, Beth, Lisa, Mona, Cara, and Adam...let's just make it happen. It doesn't always have to be because of a reunion, or a funeral, or a convention. You guys mean the actual world to me and you know what? Life is fucking short. Spend the time and the money required to be with people who feed your soul.
  • We went through some tough stuff this year. It's all too personal for a blog post, but you know what I learned? No one is immune to a goddamn thing. Think "that" can't happen to you? You're wrong. Don't ever wrap yourself in that deceptive warm blanket of denial, because reality will end up kicking your ass. You get up, dust yourself off and take care of your business. I learned that I am able to deal with a WHOLE LOT of difficult shit, whilst working, washing dishes, and continuing to live life. Did I always deal with all of it with patience and grace? Ha, NOPE. I am a human being with intense emotions and a bad temper. But I do feel like we all dealt with things effectively and didn't ignore hard things. And HOLY HUMILITY. Humility is a good thing. We all go through awful stuff, and it's stupid to think that you won't. I'm not above anyone, and certainly not above any of the families I work with who are struggling. 
  • I care entirely too much about getting and looking old. It's fucking stupid and I need to get over it. Yep, I am a vain person and I own that, but I think it's time to start accepting some of this with grace. I'm not going to stop coloring my hair (TOTALLY hair is white), or stop wearing makeup, or gain a lot of weight (I hope). But I am going to try to not obsess over every little thing that is changing as I age. I'll try to stop looking at my 10x magnifying mirror and being so tough on myself. I will be 49 in April. I'm not that bad. And honestly, NO ONE CARES. Just me. My husband is more interested in me now than he was when I was younger, shouldn't that be enough? Get over yourself, Jane. Move along. And go get your bifocals because you need them. 
  • As a mom, letting go is about 127 times harder than I thought it would be. I have an 18 year old senior now, with her own car, with her own job, who will be attending college in August. She's already been accepted to four, and is pretty sure the Bay Area is her destiny. She is an intelligent, funny, capable, and insanely talented kid. And now, I am working so incredibly hard at backing off. I still need to know where she is (roughly), and know what time she'll be home. But what I don't need to do is try to navigate every single difficult situation for her. She can do it. Soon enough we will be dropping her off at school and driving away. I know NOW that this will feel as uncomfortable and abnormal as when we left her as a baby for the first time. I remember saying it was like leaving the house without my arm. I will have to learn to live my life without my arm now. I won't say the cord is totally cut, but I have been diligently sawing away at it. I couldn't be more proud of the person she is becoming, now she gets to do it without me. She's always going to be my baby, but she's NOT me. Me feeling like I had to help her with every single aspect of her life is about me, not her. She will be fine. And now I will have four years to do the same thing to her brother. 🙄
  • My faith has been shaky for awhile, and what has been nice about this year is that I'm okay with it being shaky. I'm disillusioned by faith way more often than uplifted by it. At the end of the day, it's not God's problem, it's the people who proclaim their faith the loudest. Some people are just full of shit, and that's their problem. I honestly don't believe that God loves me less for being disgruntled and questioning everything. I am lucky enough to have many people in my life who routinely question and debate issues regarding faith, and that we can all do it with love and acceptance. Questioning is how you grow. I've known this intellectually for years, but I don't think I really felt it until this year. When we were regularly going to church, I felt like I never fit in. I'm weird. I don't fit a mold. I curse a LOT. My marriage isn't "traditional", it feels weird even writing that! Our marriage WORKS, it's just that I work longer hours, Mike is the cook, and we really are partners. Neither of us is the "head of the household", we both are. So as far as the stuff we were fed about submission and honor, yada yada doesn't matter. I talk to God all the time, and I know He's still there. I just never managed to check all the boxes. Oh well. 
  • I've been dealing with some anxiety the last few years, and I haven't really faced it or talked about it before. I think the first time I really recognized it was when Sandy Hook happened in 2012, because I truly freaked the hell out. After that, some very close friends experienced close calls in life. Since those incidents, I know to take note of things when I start feeling really anxious. I can usually rein it in, it's not debilitating. However, I routinely worry about ridiculous crap. It can be day to day stuff, feeling like I am responsible for the state of everyone else's relationships, or imagining the worst possible thing happening all day long. Mindfulness and learning to ground myself helps. Learning to meditate helps, even though I am a major beginner. I'm also learning that my humor being a defense mechanism has it's place, but sometimes it exhausts even me. I don't have to make a joke out of absolutely everything, although I do see humor when others don't. Basically, while I won't be this way around everyone (nor should I), it's okay to cut the crap and be vulnerable sometimes. I'm always telling everyone else that it's okay!

Basically, anything can happen to any of us. Shootings, lockdowns, cancer, horrible accidents. I'd be lying if I said that the future doesn't scare me, because we are all in for pain and heartache. But going into this new year, I am going to do the very best I can to focus on the good, all the many things that make everything worth it. Music remains my constant companion, and well-written books ("Becoming" is awesome). My family is my life. I adore and lean on so many of my incredible co-workers, whose support and love have been invaluable. There is an amazing amount of good and beauty out there, people. Everyone can see it, but sometimes you have to take the time to look for it. It's worth it.

Happy 2019, folks!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sub-Par Summer Mom

I'm lucky enough to have summers off with my children, who are now 13 and 17. Social media can be counted upon to make me feel lazy, uninspired, and inadequate. Sooo many of my friends and coworkers went to Hawaii, Mexico, Alaska, Europe...we did not. This has been the case for a long time. Mike's pool business is such that taking time off during the summer is just too hard, it's his busiest time. 

In addition, our kids have their lives rolling...Maddie retook a math class during summer school (and did waaaay better this time, yay!), so for the entire month of June, I drove her to school at 8am and picked her up at 3:30. It was a big sacrifice for her, but I think she will have a much more enjoyable senior year now. I hope! She also has a steady job and is the lead guitarist in a band that is getting steady gigs in Sacramento. Said child has a license, but no car, so I was either driving her places or she had my car. Here she is with adorable is this? These young people are TALENTED with a capital T. 

Stephen participated in Stairway to Stardom this summer for the first time, which just ended yesterday. He had stuff to attend almost every Saturday for 8 weeks, in addition to weekly rehearsals and practises. The in-store practises were at Skips Music in Sacramento, which isn't too far. The out of store practises took place at the guitarist's home, for which I am grateful to their family. What I was fairly cranky and bitter about was the fact that this home was in Orangevale and practice was 3-5 on Fridays. 45 minutes to get there and about an hour to get home. I shopped. A lot. I walked around and shopped aimlessly so much this summer that I am sick of shopping. For anyone who knows me well, this is no easy feat. The music program culminated in a final concert yesterday at noon at the Quarry Amphitheater in Rocklin.  There is no way to predict weather and the fact that California is currently ON FIRE, so it was super hot and smoky. But overall it went great, and HE did great. Did he discover his life's passion? We aren't sure, but he followed through and never missed a single practice or clinic. We are super proud of him.

So although I did not take any exotic vacations, do day trips (because no one's schedule EVER permitted this), did crafts, cooked super healthy, exercised, or had any significant adventures with my family, I did do stuff.

Here's what I did:

  • I read books. BOOKS, plural.  This lovely little pile on my nightstand is somewhat completed. I read The Handmaids Tale for the first time this summer, and Holy mother of God. Really chilling, especially in the current climate in our country. I have not had the stomach to watch the miniseries. I know it's brilliant, I know I would appreciate it, but sometimes fiction that is too close to reality just upsets me. I would rather watch insanely ridiculous things, like "reality" that is total fiction, like the stupid Housewives. Sue me. I watch all of them. I also read Lisa See's most recent was okay, not my fav. I just finished The Girl with Seven Names that is a memoir about escaping from North Korea, and it was RIVETING. It was different from other stories about the same thing...this young lady defected somewhat by accident. For anyone who is interested in learning about this kind of thing, I highly recommend it. I'm currently reading Girls Burn Brighter, which has started well! The bottom three on the pile are still to be tackled.
  • I planted flowers and then I NURTURED THEM. 

This may not seem like a big deal to other people, for whom this stuff comes naturally. I'm somewhat known to have a black thumb. I love plants and flowers, but often have bad luck. This summer, my potted flowers just worked out and I'm so excited! I chose these plants so carefully, loving the brighter colors as opposed to the pastels. My favorite color combo is yellow and purple. Just looking at them makes me feel calm and happy. Turns out you have to do more than just water them. I learned about organic bug spray and dead-heading, and so far everything is still blooming. There are more around the pool, snapdragons, more pansies, vinca, and ones I don't remember the names of. Mike built me the plant stand out of scrap wood that he had left over from another project.

  • I watched my cat relax. Yes, that is indeed an activity. This animal has got relaxing down to an art form, and just being in the presence of it is a joy. I don't think she's normal, but she brings our family a great deal of happiness, and I swear to god she lowers my blood pressure. 

  • I parented. I parented HARD. I don't have any cute pictures of this, as there wasn't a lot about it that was cute. I remember the old saying of "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" and I understand it now. Disclaimer...not physical pain, no one was struck! Here's the truth...normal teenagers screw up. They lie, they omit important information, and they take advantage of certain scenarios to see how far they can go. A lot of that happened this summer, and a lot of it was unearthed. It sucks disciplining a kid! It truly does...when they're grounded, you are too. When you take the car away, you have to drive them everywhere again. And then when you're in a position where you have NO other option than to take away an opportunity that the kid has looked forward to and planned for months, it HURTS! I honestly had no idea, because we have never really had to do this before. Lots and lots of tears in our home this past month, and they did not all come from the punished teenager. Their brains, man. They are so far from being fully cooked, and this is our JOB, to teach them that their decisions and actions have consequences. It's a very hard job. But we did it, and we all lived through it, at least as of today. Shortly after The Big Consequence, there was The Big Heartbreak. I won't go into details here, but it was about 250 different kinds of fucked up. The only thing that hurts a mom more than having to majorly discipline their kid is to see them emotionally destroyed and not being able to fix it. This too shall pass, but DAMN!!!
  • I worked extra. I am currently working extra, actually. Why would I do such a thing? Am I insane? Am I a glutton for punishment and can't think of anything better to do? Maybe? But I wanted to do this...partially because I can get a lot done within a very short amount of time and appear superhuman. To my folks that I am currently working with, I appreciate the kudos, but I DO NOT work at this pace all of the time. Trust me on that one. Also, I desperately need my kid to acquire a car. She has to save a set amount, and we will kick in the rest. She is about halfway there, and I'm already looking at used beaters online. Let's all join hands and look forward to the day I will no longer have to drive my children to school, at least for a year. This will be my emancipation. Getting up and just going to work will be like a vacation unto itself. 
  • I didn't kill my teenagers. At least as of 7:56pm on July 30th, I have not. I didn't take them on numerous adventures. But I did go to the movies with them, helped the girl color her hair, helped them get their rooms together, did endless laundry, drove them approximately 5,000 miles all over the greater Sacramento area and replied to ten thousand texts. 
The comparisons are what kills us, moms. I see all the adorable, sun-drenched photos and I feel lame and inadequate. I feel like I am missing out on opportunities to "make memories". I feel like I am not trying hard enough. But then I have memories of being at my father's house with my brother and his now wife, watching MTV when it first premiered. I remember being at my mom's house, both of us studying while fresh bread was baking. None of this was exciting, or took place on a beach in Greece. Despite this, the memories are sweet, and I am grateful for them. We might not be the most exciting parents in the world, we're probably in the running for the most boring. We're pretty much always on our couch, desperately looking for something decent to watch on television. But we are ACCESSIBLE. Our kids know where to find us. There was not a single moment this summer during which they needed me and I wasn't available.

Maybe I don't suck as much as I think I do. Maybe most moms are just plugging along, being available to their children and doing the best they can. Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a way we could capture such a thing on Instagram? 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Leave Them Alone.

What is striking me at this moment is that it's disheartening that I've already written about this, I wrote about school shootings in 2012 when Sandy Hook happened and my heart f'ing shattered. But here we are, and it keeps happening. Being redundant makes me cranky because I do it a lot, so I am going to attempt to make the focus of this entry focused in a different direction. Let's see how that goes!

Today I went downtown with my 17 year old daughter to participate in March for our Lives. It was an uplifting, positive, and hopeful experience. We made it all the way to the steps and were feet away from the speakers, many of them students. We were close enough that I could see their notes shaking in their hands, and hear their nervousness in speaking in front of so many people. I listened as some of the crowd was rude, screaming that they couldn't hear them. The PA system left a lot to be desired, but what can you do in the moment? But we heard them. We heard the kids from my daughter's school talk about how scary it was a couple weeks ago when their school was on lockdown for almost two hours due to a rumor of a kid being on campus with a gun. I know how scary that was for me. I know how scary it was for my daughter. However, somehow hearing it from other kids struck me hard. I hate hate HATE thinking about kids being scared. It's the main thing that just puts me over the edge in almost every possible scenario. Footage from war zones, kids who have been abused or experienced other trauma, kids put into adult situations that they don't understand, so the product is just pure confusion and WRECKS ME.

I know that my colleagues understand the following perspective, but I don't know if a lot of other people do. I've been an educational psychologist for 21 years, a good fat chunk of my life. Schools are my world. When you spend enough time in a certain environment, it seeps into your blood. I've always loved school culture. The routines, the traditions, the disciplinary challenges, the assemblies, the joys, the bad band concerts, ALL of it. I feel like I've gotten to intimately know so many elements of it and the people who dwell within it. Everyone has their own perspective, the admin, custodians, teachers, librarians, office staff, it's all unique. What isn't unique is all of these people's total dedication to keeping kids safe. One issue with having empathy (which honestly I often wish I didn't have) is that it hurts. Sandy Hook killed me. I could NOT get the images out of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about all the staff that made it, and how I know for a fact that every single person at that school wishes they'd done more. I couldn't stop thinking about the parents waiting for their baby to show up at the meeting spot, and knowing some never did. My own kids were in elementary school at the time. Now, my children are in middle and high school, and this shit keeps happening. And when it does, it spins me right the hell out. I think of it from a parent's perspective, I hated with a passion that my daughter was so scared, stuck under her desk for two hours wondering what the hell was happening and texting me. I hated trying to reassure her when I honestly wasn't sure that it was nothing. I think of it from an employee's perspective, knowing that all the teachers and staff at her high school were just as scared as the kids were, and they were thinking about their own families. And I think about it from another perspective, with the knowledge that if that ever happened at one of my schools, I might not come home. If I saw a little person in imminent danger, I don't think I could keep myself from diving in front of them. And if somehow I was able to keep myself from doing that and kids died that I could have helped, I would never forgive myself. No matter the outcome, I would never be the same.

These kids from Parkland will never be the same. Over the past few weeks I have foolishly allowed myself to see how some are treating these kids. It has honestly blown my mind how many "adults" have attacked, denigrated, and condescended to these kids. I saw one lawmaker of some sort, claiming that the incredibly brave young people on the cover of Time weren't REALLY victims of the shooting because they weren't in the same building that the shooting took place. I've seen people claim that they're actors. I personally encountered people online (big mistake) who claimed that every kid who walked out recently just did it to get out of school, that their parents are losers, that they all need to get the shit smacked out of them.  This makes me CRAZY. I can't speak to the hearts of every single kid at Parkland, or the kids at CO who walked out with my daughter. What they do all have in common though, is that THEY ARE STILL KIDS.  They didn't ask for any of this shit, they just wanted to slog through the hell that is high school for so many and get on with their lives. I honestly don't understand the public and their disdain for this generation. One minute they're ridiculing them for eating Tide Pods (which is indeed beyond ridiculous) and then they're telling them that they can't vote, they can't change laws, so they should shut up and stay in their place. What the hell do they want from them? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that everything that these kids are trying to do will be useless. Let's say nothing will actually change...why the hell would people still want to ridicule and fault them for TRYING???  Isn't this better than getting drunk and eating Tide Pods? Isn't it amazing that they're attempting to affect change and make things better, even if it doesn't work? Why is it that the adults in this country can't afford them a teeny sliver of grace, even if they don't agree? It is heartbreaking to me.

These kids are traumatized, and are still marching, still speaking, still standing up for what they believe in. They aren't getting ready to graduate, to go to prom, to choose a college. That's what a lot of them thought they'd be doing two months ago, but it's not how it turned out for them. Those incredible young people are in PAIN. They're having nightmares, and flashbacks, and aren't eating, sleeping, thinking. PTSD is a real thing, and all the kids in Parkland have experienced trauma in varying degrees. Seeing Emma Gonzalez speak today in Washington killed  me. She is strong, amazing, brave, articulate, courageous, and incredibly intelligent. You know what else she is? She's 18, she's a KID. She lives with her parents, and probably fights with them sometimes, she's gotten into trouble, and cried about someone she's dated. She probably stressed out about her SAT's and her GPA. And now she and her classmates are in the public eye, something they didn't plan on, but something that they are going to follow through with because they believe in it.

People don't have to agree with these kids. They can disagree with every single word that comes out of their mouths, that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective, and they usually have valid reasons for them. But for the love of God, LEAVE THEM ALONE. If you don't agree, don't attack them, don't send their families death threats. Let them heal. They have been through something so life-changing, most people can't even conceive of it. To me, they are heroes, trailblazers, world changers, and KIDS. The protective mama bear in me comes out every time I see an attack against one of these precious souls. Please, just leave them alone. They could be my kid, and THEY COULD BE YOURS.