Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Trip to Crazy

Everyone has a breaking point, even superstar-working mommies.  We are the mommies who are depended on for everything. From sunup to sundown us working- mommies wear many hats. We are the master of juggling many balls all throughout our day. We take care of the kids, make dinner, clean house, do the laundry, play chauffeurs to our kids and run them all over God’s creation to their evening activities. Even as our husbands help when and where they can  in their eyes we got it together and can handle everything.  And why wouldn’t they think that? In the past we did have our shit together and were capable of channeling our inner-superwoman and secret superpowers.
Then the day of reckoning comes, the day we are diagnosed with BSCS also known as Bat Shit Crazy Syndrome.  The stress finally gets to us and we have a meltdown at work, at home, or most embarrassing  at the supermarket because you can’t remember what kind of milk you usually buy while your kids run circles around you feet playing “Ring Around the Rosie.” And the gloves come off - your inner superwoman is exhausted and is going on a one month hiatus and screw everyone who has an opinion that does not match yours.
During this month hiatus we realize several things: First, this expectation to be perfect and the juggler of all balls is an expectation we bestow upon ourselves and we CAN take it away and let the balls fall where they may. Second, it’s time to ask for help- there is nothing braver  a woman can do then to reach out  for help in the midst of totally losing her shit.   Help comes in many forms:   spouse, sisters, friends, family,  therapists, physician, even that creepy old cat lady who lives next door who is surprisingly insightful on your trip to bat shit crazy. Lastly, the thing we realize is that it is all going to be okay- it does not feel like it right now as you are  sitting in your pajamas on the couch in the middle of the day, watching reruns of “Married with Children,” and eating a whole gallon of ice cream.
In the end it has to be okay because there is no other way that is acceptable to you, this is God’s plan for you right now. I am sure if you could talk with Him he would tell you that you will come out of this stronger on the other side and be thankful for this gut wrenching period of your life. Once you are in remission and are no longer experiencing  active symptoms of BSCS  (remember Bat Shit Crazy Syndrome) you will realize that what you perceived as failure is not failure, but a lesson learned in how to keep going when the going get tough, and the reminder that you never quit. Sure, you may have taken a short flight to cra-cra island, but the flight is round trip and many other mommies are on that flight right now, a few may even be flying the plane. Stay strong ,  you are one of the toughest, bravest women I know and failure is not a word that you know.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hold On

On the drive home from Pittsburgh last week as I got the call that my grandpa had passed we were passing through Happy Valley which I still believe is one of the most beautiful drives east of the Mississippi. You could see it storming to one side of the valley and the sun shining on the other side, and you can see where the two met. It really was a spectacular sight. For every dark storm there is a light waiting to break through right beside it. When I arrived at my aunt's house that first day, exhausted from traveling, mourning the loss of a great man, and surviving on eight hours of sleep in the past two days I passed out on her bed under her sign that read, "Don't wait for the storm pass but learn to dance in the rain." As always when I share my struggles I also hear yours, which entrusting me to your own dark moments is a humbling thing as I know how hard it is to admit our weaknesses, our failures, and our struggles. It's so easy to think we're alone; when really in reality we're not.

So to those of you that have trusted me with your recent struggles and those that hold theirs close to their hearts here we all stand somewhere in our own valley with the dark storm of our lives to one side and the light of the brighter days ahead to the other side. We know every dark moment passes. That the storm doesn't stay forever. Whether it's the loss of someone we love, struggles and burdens of our jobs or finances, trying days or months with our teenager or infant, struggles in our relationships, or the battles with ourselves it shall all pass. We will all get through these moments that seem to consume our lives at this very moment in time. Though we're not on top of that hill overlooking Happy Valley where we can see the light ahead that will push that storm away it is there for each us.

As I laid there last night on the floor of my son's bedroom from 1 am to 3 am as I tried to will this child to sleep and prayed to God to give me strength to handle this boy he entrusted into my care, the well of tears gone from too little sleep for too many days on end, I remembered. 

I remembered another little girl that screamed for hours on end in the evenings that no one could handle but me, and I held on. I held on to that baby like we were each other's lifeline to the other side of that dark moment. I remembered the dark days of my marriage when I would cry myself to sleep, wondering what we were doing, where we were going, but I held on. I held on with everything I had because more than anything I believed in the potential of who we could be. I remembered the anxiety that we were going to slip into financial disaster, but I held on and kept pushing forward, knowing we were working hard for better days ahead. I remembered the feelings of dread that would twist my stomach about the work days ahead in that year I faced extreme burnout, unsure how I could make it to the end of the year, much more decades more in the profession I chose for myself but I held on. I remembered the dark days that followed the passing of my uncle, my grandmother, and my other  grandfather but I held on. I held onto the memories and the momentos that reminded me they may not be physically here anymore, but they're around and always in my heart. I remembered the heartache of lost babies I briefly carried but never met, but I held on. I remembered the months of fear for my unborn son, but I held on. I held onto my faith and belief that he would be fine. Now in this moment with you, my son, I will hold on. I will hold on as we make it through these trying days of your infancy.

As I laid there again on his floor, holding his hand through the crib,  just two hours after I spent almost two hours getting him back to sleep I thought of all of us, trapped in that storm of our life at this moment.  So for all of us I say. Hold on. Hold on to our belief in ourself. Dig deep and hold on to our strength that will carry us through. Hold on and find something to dance for in the middle of the storm. We will get through this. We will come out the other side.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rockstar to Falling Star

I mentioned the other day that I can go from rock star to falling star like the flip of a switch. My emotions swing from pretty high to pretty low pretty quick as well. I would say that's the case these days but I've probably been that way for a long time. I feel that being a negative, cynical, borderline depressed person is a genetic trait I have to focus on overcoming on an almost daily basis. Because of that certain people or types of people can easily rub on me the wrong way and bring on that angrier, negative side of myself I work so hard at controlling. Certain stressful situations also makes this internal battle sometimes a daily war with myself.

A friend of mine posted this meme the other day about how everyone has a chapter in their story they don't let others read. I found it incredibly fitting for myself because as much as I'm an open book with my writing on here and in general I mentioned how I have two unread chapters, but because they involve others' personal situations and stories I don't share them. They're not my stories alone to tell. Unfortunately, if me and them could ever get to a place to fully confront those stories together it'd possibly have the potential to change mine and their life for the better. But it's really hard to see the flaws in ourselves and to confront those flaws so all I can do for now is work on myself. However knowing those stories I think would clarify this sometimes daily struggle I have with myself.

I don't even remember what actual event lead me to claiming rockstar status the other day. Maybe it was another one of my essays making it to the final selection rounds of Chicken Soup for the Soul's upcoming book. I think there's one more round of cuts before the final essays are selected though I had to return a contract already the other day. It could have been my excitement of hopefully getting published with them again or maybe it was sticking to my workout goals these first six weeks back to work. Or maybe it was the two compliments I got at work with my yearbook class. But whatever it was I also added that I knew how easily I could go from rock star to falling star. I hate failing. I take it hard. I remember that ball player that would cry over losing the big game. I know we win some and we lose some. I know we succeed. I know we fail. However, 35 years old or not I still hate to fail (think that s why I took that depressed, struggling year back in 2012/2013 so hard) and  I am a sore loser.

I knew I was hanging by a thread heading into this week. The baby doesn't sleep much at night. My grandfather is down to what we believe are his final days, and though we said our good byes when I left in August and he thanked me probably a half a dozen times for bringing the kids up to see him three times while I was home it's still more upsetting than I thought it would be. Some of it I think is hearing how much he's suffering here at the end. He's so ready to go. I know it's hard on my dad to see him like this, and that breaks my heart too. I know my aunt doesn't want him to go, and she's his little girl so I can't blame her. Pretty sure I'll want to hang onto my dad down to his last miserable moment even though he always tells us he really doesn't want to live to be too old because you're not living at that point. But I just want my grandpa to have peace at this point. Besides his little girl he always made my sisters and me and my cousin feel like his little pride and joys. We won't ever forget that. There's another meme that floats around saying something about how it's not about what you do but how you make people feel. So thanks, grandpa, your support of us always made us girls feel special. But, please, I know you're angry these days about your situation, and I know you love my dad so much. Please, please in these final days make sure he knows it. And one last request when you get to the other side and you and Grandpa M are sitting around similar to that picture of you two that will forever hang in my hallway capturing you two in your better days come pay your namesake a visit. I didn't know when I named him after you two he would have your stubborn personalities so please convince him sleeping at night is a good thing, and even though I maybe deserve a stubborn, sometimes difficult child or two like myself I could use the break.

On top of the baby and my grandpa,  sickness has started going around my house and my observation was this week. I just did not have a good feeling headed into it. It was with my worst class. I haven't seen a group of students this unmotivated since I left my old school three years ago. Pretty much the conclusion of the observation was I need to own my students' behavior. Them wanting to be on their phones, them thinking there's no point in doing class work because of the new grading system, them just not giving a shit about their own grades or learning is on me. This reminds me of when Kenz was a screaming, colicky baby and it felt like everyone thought I as her mother should know how to make it stop. Now years later I see it was just her personality coming through. Now I face the same thing with Lincoln and his sleep issues. All these I should do this or  I should do that. They're well intended but more times than not I can tell you it's just who he is. All kids even as babies, trust me I can attest to it with all three of mine, have their own personalities. Yes as parents and teachers we can guide them, but kids have a mind of their own. I have to work hard as it is to control my own behavior, but the expectation that I can control a kid or anyone else's is pretty limited.

Just like I can't make the people in my two untold chapters confront their own flaws to move forward I can't change the behavior of other people. I can't change who my students or are who my own children are. I can't even fully change who I am- overly emotional at times even though I can put on the tough bitch mask in person like no other (most of the time), hot tempered, impatient with waiting but overly patient with tolerating others poor behavior.

So I know for those of you that are so wonderful at supporting me in my crazy emotional roller-coaster ride that is just me in general that I have been all over the place with being up and down and back up then back down so sorry for the crazy ride, but as always if you want real that's what you're going to get from me.  I like to think I know myself well, and I knew going into this year it would be tough, but I was going in with a positive attitude. As the weeks have passed it's like one thing after another wants to chip away at my goal of positivity to the point that I feel like I first went from sprinting in motivated excitement towards some invisible finish line, to hobbling as the stones of defeat were cast, to now army crawling my way to that invisible line. The defeat this week hurt.

I can put on the mask which usually involves sarcasm or misplaced anger at someone, but here is where I've always let myself be me.  For those that can't take the emotional pendulum that is me sorry but not sorry. But more times than not people appreciate my candor, my willingness to be open and to share the reality of struggling. Because my story is not yours and yours is not mine but we all struggle. Sometimes it feels like every day is a fight. A fight with ourselves to be who we envision with who we are in that moment, a fight with being who everybody else thinks we need to be verse who we are, a fight to get over the failures and the let downs and get back up and move forward.

So this week I failed. I feel like I failed at my job, I definitely failed as a housewife as the dirty dishes in the sink can attest to that, I'm not doing very well in the marriage department at the moment, my uncharacteristically crying seven year old and my four year old putting baby food in her brother's eye and not having a six month old sleep through the night might be indicating I'm failing motherhood at the moment too, and I even failed at being the damn tooth fairy this week.

I worked too hard to get in a better mindset and get my confidence back so I have to let this go. It's just a moment in time. It will pass, and there will be better days ahead.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I'm a month into being back to work. A month into conquering the new me, and I feel amazing. Maybe I use the word amazing because I know what it feels like to feel the complete opposite. I know what it’s like to feel defeated and like you keep getting kicked while you're down, which in all honesty is usually yourself tearing yourself down because you feel overwhelmed, like everything is never enough. I've had those moments here and there in the past month, but they've been short lived where before they've consumed me.

Sure it's been hectic busy at times. When is it not at this time of the year, but wow, my energy level has been a huge lifesaver. I can be pretty go go as it is, but I like my sleep, people. I do crash pretty hard by 10 almost every night, but I'm up at 530 after at least one middle of the night feeding with my son. It's go go go all day long until about 9, but I'm good. I got this in a way I haven’t in a long time. I'm not frustrated with it and taking it out on everyone in the house every night because believe me there was a time I was like that. In fact I did something tonight the old me would have never done. If I don't get my workout in shortly after work it's not going to happen. However at 8 after the baby went down and dinner was cleaned up I thought I'm not going to pass on that workout; I am going to get it in tonight right now. And I did. The old me would have fallen back on some excuse and pushed it off for another day.

Not only is my energy level higher but I even feel like my mind is more focused and not so foggy. My husband always claimed I must have adult ADD or I call it mommy brain. Even though I can be scattered brained here and there my head does not feel like there's a ping pong ball rattling around in there all the time like it used to feel like. I'm focused, I'm organized again, and I have my plan whether it's  about me and working out, work, or family activities and household responsibilities and I get it done. I’m feeling accomplished in a way I haven’t felt as a working mother possibly ever.  

I'm a ball of positive energy that I have not been in a long time. My husband would probably tell you it was from sometime before we had kids, and he's probably right. But I worry when my mindset will slip, when the feelings of frustrations and being overwhelmed will consume me again. When will the ball drop?  Will that crazy, angry, negative girl come back? See depression runs in my family. If I ever sought the official medical diagnosis as my family has pushed me to do I would be the third in our family of five. Even though I did eventually seek medical attention for mine a few years ago besides discovering my thyroid issue I never pushed it any further because I have very strong feelings about being medicated. It took multiple blood tests before the doctor convinced me I really needed medication to get my thyroid under control.

However, when I saw the negative toll my negativity and anger had on my children and marriage, I knew I couldn't just hold onto my stubborn resistance. It was give in and seek anti depressant medications or change. So as anyone in my family can tell you I have quite the stubborn streak so I went for change.

It would take what I call a whole trifecta transformation: spiritual, mental, and physical change. I wanted a natural change. Even though I have always been a believer in God and said my prayers I started to add in a few prayers for myself. Because frankly I needed help. So oddly at first the idea of asking Him for help in becoming a better person was about like the thought of asking my parents for financial help. I’m independent and I can do everything myself is my attitude, but over the course of the past few years I really grew my relationship with God. I have no doubt He’s played a more active role in my life these past few years. I sought his help and He answered.

For the physical transformation I knew I needed exercise back in my life on a regular basis again. I'm not a beach body coach and heck I don't even follow the programs like I should, but I love the videos. Even though I’ve implemented multiple changes over the past few years to change my mindset and get here, I do believe they are key in the final results. All I've done is commit at least three days a week to the videos and cut soda and other sugars out of my life. I tackled my physical health with exercise which as I've always shared has had a huge mental health benefit to me. Seriously exercise is the greatest free therapy there is, people. It does amazing things not just for your body but for your mind too. I think the exercise and better eating habits have been huge for my increased energy level, positive mindset, and just clearer head.

There were so many changes I put into place in the years since I started to realize what my angry, negative attitude was doing to those around me but I really feel like it's been in the last few months that I've seen the final transformation of feeling that even though I'm not completely where I want to be I'm confident I'm on my way to her. I’m in such a better place physically, mentally, and spiritually than I’ve been in a long time. I think all three of those are key in transforming myself to a happier better me. It all started with knowing I had to change and taking action to make it happen.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why I Understand Holden Caulfield

It's childhood cancer awareness month incase you didn't know. If you also didn't know childhood cancer only gets 4% of government funding. Children are fighting for their opportunity to live at this very moment. Every day children lose their future and their life to childhood cancer. Every day a parent faces their worst nightmare as they watch cancer steal their child away. Somebody's child out there isn't going to get to live.

Have  you ever watched someone die from cancer? It's awful. It's heartbreaking. It's slow and painful for them and those feeling helpless beside them. Trust me. It's not something you'd wish on your worst enemy, much more an innocent child. I can't even begin to imagine how that haunts you for the rest of your life. Yet I know people going through that very thing right now.

My students are reading Catcher in the Rye right now and finding themselves drawn into Holden Caulfield's lost, depressed world. So many I know don't like Holden because they find him whiney and pathetic. But I never have because he's not just the lost boy of some Peter Pan Neverland world who selfishly doesn't want to grow up. He is a lost boy just existing and too jaded to really live his life. But unfortunately his Neverland is Hell, a world where he's suppose to figure out how to live when fate in the form of cancer took away one of the people he loved most, his brother. He's unsure how to move on with his life, unsure why he got to live and his brother did not.  His innocence and childhood were stripped away from him when he watched what cancer did to his younger brother. You don't easily recover from that. You don't just get over that. You don't just need to grow up and move on from that. He, along with every child, and sibling of every child, that faces cancer, are forced into a hellish adult world an adult hopes to never be in. He wants to be the catcher in the rye because he's seen the hell that exist on the other side of our childhood innocence, and he doesn't want anyone to experience that anymore than any other adult does.

Holden is living in a hellish world where he has to figure out how to live after cancer stole his childhood innocence and left him in shattered pieces much like the shattered window on the night of his brother's death. So I get Holden Caulfield, and I don't think we should be so quick to judge him as whiney and pathetic because coming out the other side of cancer is no easy feat.

I'm personally tired of reading about real life Holden Caulfield's, siblings watching their young brothers and sisters fighting and sometimes losing their battle to cancer. Spread the awareness that it's Childhood Cancer Month and we need more funds for our children!