lastmandystanding

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Blogger. Aspiring writer. Smartass. But you'll probably still want to be my friend.

Parenting Fail Video

Last Mandy has dipped her toe into the video world. 

It came rather out of nowhere. I Snapchat regularly back and forth with my sister, and we’ve had some real gems between us that we have saved for future viewings. The thought occurred to me one night to make a video using various Snapchat filters for different characters, depicting actual events I have experienced. 

Tonight’s video is a completely accurate re-telling of something that happened a couple years ago with my girls. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You’ve had that moment when you witness your child doing something so over-the-top ridiculous, you think “Where did I mess up? What did I do to cause this? Whose kids are these?” etc. 

This is one of those moments for me. Link to YouTube. Enjoy. 

https://youtu.be/qa84ELe1udg 

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Ask and you shall receive? 

This is a quick one, but I just had to share.  I posted this blog just this morning. 

Dragonflies have been symbolic to me since about two days after my father died.  I can go into detail on that at a later time, but they are SO symbolic that I have a tattoo of a dragonfly, next to my dad’s signature that says “Love, Dad” which is from a poem he wrote me when I graduated high school. So, safe to say, pretty darn meaningful to me. 

I took my daughter to the doctor this afternoon and he’s always got a self-illustrated trivia question posted on a dry erase board in his office. It changes every day, in case you’re wondering. 

I sat down across the room and looked (squinted, because I didn’t have my glasses or contacts) and I said “umm…is that a dragonfly?”

Yep. 

It took all I had not to lose it and start crying, but I told him I had to take a picture and just simply told him dragonflies are very symbolic to me of my dad who passed, and the irony/beauty of this being there TODAY, when the appointment was just made TODAY, is rather incredible to me. 

So…maybe he’s not that far after all. Or maybe they get blog subscriptions in heaven? Either way, I’ll take it. 

Thank you, daddy. 

Grieving: “Where have you been?” Moving your feet and life forward after heartbreaking loss

“Where have you been?”

That’s often the first thing we say when we see someone who hasn’t been where they were supposed to be at the time they were expected. Your spouse, your teenager, friend, etc. is late to show, and we beg to know where they’ve been…what has kept them from us? It may be part relief, part curiosity, part fear…but we ask – needing that answer. 

And sometimes we need that answer from someone who can never give it to us.

I’ve written before about my father’s sudden passing here, which unfathomably is approaching the five year mark. I cannot ever convey in words the devastation it brought me and my family, and how much of it I feel so deeply every day, even still. There are events so pivotal that they divide your life into categories: before and after. 

I am not the same woman I was before he died. I will never be her again. A part of me died with him. I’m still working on my “after.”

I’ve found solace in “feeling” him near me over the years. Dragonflies have an extremely unique and special significance for me, and I consider them a sign from my dad. I’ve had a few dreams of him, but never once has he spoken words to me in a dream…he’s just – there. Funny thing is, the ONLY words he has spoken in any of my dreams since his death, were telling my mom not to open that bottle of a really odd flavored vodka, because we already had one open and it would go to waste. My dad drank bourbon. Go figure. Dreams are weird.

He was cremated after an open-casket service, so I don’t have a graveside to go sit and visit him, talk to him, have that symbolic “place.” 
My mom just sold the last house they shared together. I can’t even imagine how difficult that was for her. I can no longer go there and feel his presence, catch a passing smell of his cologne, sense and feel him as if he’s there, just in another room, out of site. 

It was when I went THERE, to their home to visit, that reality really wound it up tight and throat-punched me. Walking into the house and up the stairs and he wasn’t there waiting. Agony. But then slowly I’d start to feel him all around me. Bittersweet memories of him either kissed me gently on the cheek or punched me in the face everywhere I turned. I could feel him there… and it brought some needed comfort, if only temporary. I can’t go there anymore.

I will admit that my grieving process has functioned on a healthy dose of denial, supported by the fact that my parents have lived in another state for over 20 years now. When my mom comes here to visit, it’s easy and protective for my mind to just casually tell itself “Oh, dad just stayed home this time. No big deal.” My sister and I joke that he’s just on a nice vacation. The joke is that he must be having one hell of a time to be gone this long. But the funny truth is, my dad hated vacations. He was a worker; two jobs for most of his life. 

I have only a small amount of his ashes that I shamefully admit are in the small pill bottle in which they were given to me. I haven’t found anything special enough to hold the small amount, and I have plans to eventually have some of them added to blown glass and created into something unique and beautiful, forged by fire – just like him. They sit in a curio cabinet that is rarely seen, and even more rarely opened, along with my other “dad” stuff. Stuff that is special and sentimental, and comes out when I feel the need to bawl hysterically for a bit and just let it all out.

Are you like me? Do you ever seem to just torture yourself with sad things?

Like, “damn it all, I need to ugly cry, and I’m going to look at the things, and listen to the songs, and smell the smells, and relive the moments that make me saddest in life. And while I’m at it, I’m gonna think about orphans and starvation and cancer and abuse and homelessness, and how my kids are growing up at warp speed and I’m running out of time to fix any ways I’ve screwed them up and omg, I’m 40, will have BOTH my babies walking around in teenage bodies in the next few weeks and life is a little hard and overwhelming right now. I better just get it all out and be REALLY super miserable for a bit — then put it away ‘til next time.”

No? Just me who does that?

Ok — Don’t judge my borderline unhealthy coping skills. It’s cathartic because I say it is and we’re all friends here. If, on the other hand, you do the same thing, then “hey there, crazy-cry friend. I see you. I get you. I already love you. You are safe with me.”

What usually brings me to one of these ridiculous crying sessions is my complete and overwhelming grief. I grieve many things, as do many of us. I am trying to muster the courage to write about some of the others, but mostly, and presently, it’s grief for my father. And lately, what takes me there is the fact that HE. IS. NOWHERE. 

I don’t feel him. I don’t hear his chuckle when something happens that he would find hysterical. I don’t get signs from him that used to be abundant. I haven’t felt his presence in so long. Haven’t heard his voice in my ear, whispering the answer to something I’ve silently asked.

Radio silence.

Daddy… where have you been?

Make no mistake, I KNOW where he is. I know he is ok. He suffers no more. He is in beauty and splendor of which you and I have no earthly comprehension. And I KNOW I will see him again one day.

But yet I struggle.

I just feel like he’s slipping further and further away… and it kills me. I was having this very discussion with my boyfriend, who, I have to say, is completely full of love and non-judgment when it comes to this battle of mine. He never got to meet my dad, which breaks my heart, but I’ve told enough stories, he has an idea of his personality. And he said to me: “Baby… I didn’t know him, but I feel like I do. And I think, from what I know about him, that maybe he’s still very much there, but keeping distance, kind of as an act of tough love, to tell you, in a way – to ‘stop this…this level of grieving is holding you back. You need to know I’m ok and GO LIVE.’ And then he said “your dad is on the OTHER SIDE of what we can only imagine. He knows you worry and you wonder and you miss him, but you’ve grieved so hard and so long that maybe he’s trying to tell you to that ‘one day, you’ll fully understand, but until then, you need to stop focusing on me because I am more than ok, and focus on loving and living your life, because currently it’s holding you back. I am holding you back.” 

It was a clarity moment. This made a lot of sense to me, especially knowing my dad – the KING of tough love (and also a softy.) But in my true last-word-Lucy fashion, through my ugly sobbing, I said “well yeah, sure…that’s totally something he’d do, but can’t he throw me a freaking bone when I’m crying out for him right now?!”

No, dear readers. I don’t think he can. Nor will he. I think I gotta do this one on my own. I have to find ways to cope and deal with his death so that I can get back to living.

I suffer fiercely from anger over his death. It was sudden. Unexpected. No closure. Sure, I said things at his bedside before he took his last breath, but did he hear me? And the anger… oh, the anger… manifests in ways I can’t understand, let alone try to explain right now. 

I have anxiety, general and social. Sometimes it’s completely overwhelming. Those closest to me may be surprised to hear that and know what I go through just to go to an event where there will be lots of people. That can be anything from the grocery store to a hometown football game to a get-together with friends. Hard to explain or understand, coming from a woman who’s been described as being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything. Most, not all of the time, once I’m IN the situation, I can mostly fake being ok. It’s the build-up to going that’s hell. And the rest of the time, I can’t get out of there fast enough, even if I’m having a decent time.

I believe the only way FOR ME to get through this is to pray and move and write and love my way out of it.

I will move myself back to life. I will, to God, pray myself back to life. I will write myself back to life. And I will love myself back to life.

I need to get out more and interact with people. (Working from home, that’s easily avoided.) I need to move my body. I need an outlet for stress and anxiety before it literally kills me. I’m looking into yoga classes. I plan to write more. About my dad. About grief. About anger. About happy and funny things again. About pain. About whatever it is I need to write about. Even if no one reads it, I need to say it. I need to put it in writing.

I have to start more DOING and less TALKING.

I have a framed quote in my office that my dad used to have in his. It reads:

“Don’t ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.”

Well… It’s time to start moving my feet.

And pray that one day, I will hear – clearly – the answer to “Daddy, where have you been?” 


Picture in blog is me and my sweet daddy when I was a baby. Looks like he was doing the “soooooo big!” ❤️ Precious to me. 

**I’d love to hear ways that YOU have coped with grief and loss, and the anger and anxiety that follows. Please comment and share your thoughts. I read them all. And if you enjoyed this post and think someone else may need to hear it, please share the link on your social media. Thank you! XO**

When you lose a parent 

It’s been almost four years since I lost my dad suddenly. I’ve only really written about it on this site once. But it’s at the forefront of my mind every day. 

I have some friends going through this pain right now. They’ve lost a great man. Their father, husband, grandpa, a great coach, friend, family man. Very much the patriarch of their family.

I remember after my dad died, I felt the need to go back to every friend of mine who had ever lost a parent and apologize to them profusely. Of course I had sympathized with them over their loss. I brought food. I prayed for them. I went to visitations and funerals. I was present in the best way I knew how to be. But I felt the need to apologize, because with my newfound intimate knowledge of this loss, I felt I hadn’t done enough. Had I known that THIS…this absolute personal hell…is what they were going through, I would’ve done more. Been there more. Said more. Been more of a presence for them. Not just immediately after, but in the weeks and months to follow.  

But the fact of the matter is, until it happens TO YOU, you have no idea what it is like. You can feel bad and sad and sorry for their loss. But you cannot possibly fathom the agony. You will one day. But if you haven’t gone through it, you have no idea. 

So, with intimate knowledge I wish I did not have, I can only offer advice based on my personal experience, to those who have recently lost a parent. 

First and foremost, however YOU grieve is the right way FOR YOU. Your grief process is as unique as your fingerprint. Unlike that from anyone else on this planet. Your siblings, your surviving parent…they will grieve differently from you, I promise. And you may not like the way they grieve. But that’s ok. No way is the right way. I can tell you that all the “stages of grief” are normal and each stage may cycle through you in one day and drop you right back off at the beginning. 

Very well meaning people, some who have known and loved you for your entire life, will completely, utterly, and unintentionally piss. you. off. They will say something with the best intentions, but it will come out wrong. Or it will come out right, but you will hear it wrong because your emotions are running amok. It will rub you the wrong way. It will make you angry. Forgive them. Or at least recognize no one means you any harm, especially now, and try not to dwell. They know not what they do. Truly. 

Most people do not have a clue how to act towards you. There are no words to say to bring your parent back. They don’t understand the relationship you had with that parent. They don’t know what to say or do but they desperately want to help. This usually is expressed with offers of food. I remember my mom getting so upset after my dad died. Everyone wanted to bring her food or take her out for a meal and, while she appreciated it, she wondered why everyone though food was the answer. I think that’s just a human connection. We all know that everyone needs food and nourishment in order to survive. They don’t know what to say or do…but they know you need to eat. And THAT they can take care of. As much as it may irritate you, the best thing to do is say ‘thank you’ and allow them to feel as if they’ve helped. And it does help. It’s one less thing for you to worry about. But after a while, it seems repetitive and may be even annoying. That’s just because your emotions are at a constant heightened state. And that’s ok. 

You may find yourself analyzing how many years other people have had with their parents, in comparison to the amount of time you had with yours. You may be angry that someone older than you still has both living parents. I mean, you may be really, truly, legitimately pissed off. Not that you wish anyone ill will or to experience this loss – but you will be mad at the circumstances. Mad at the universe. Mad at God for cutting your time short. 

It’s hard for me to admit, but I have been mad at God for taking my dad from me. I’m not proud of that, but it’s an honest admission for me. I have only been to church a handful of times since he died. Most of which were for holidays; not a typical service. Not because I don’t want or need to go. Church has always been an emotional experience for me, even when I was young.  I cry almost every time I go because I always get a great message; one that feels like it was directed specifically at me. And I’m just not sure I could make it through a service without breaking down. Maybe I’m just not ready for THAT breakdown yet. It will come. In the meantime, I still talk to God every day and am working on that relationship. He’ll get me to the right church at the right time. But I digress. 

If your parents were still married, like mine were, you will have two losses to grieve. The loss of the parent that died, and the loss of the surviving parent as you have known them up until this point. Somehow, everyone finds the strength to get through visitations, funerals, dinners, etc. But the hardest part is yet to come. The hard part is watching your parent live alone in the house they shared with their spouse for so many years. To know they are sleeping in a bed that now seems way too big to them. To know they probably have an item of clothing they will cling to until every trace of their lost love is gone. That piece of clothing will soak up thousands of tears. It will become a security blanket. Your parent will never be the same. How could they be? That was one of the hardest things for me. The pain of losing my dad was almost completely unbearable, but watching my mother grieve for him…that was gut wrenching. 

Your family dynamic will be forever changed. None of you will ever be the same. Relationships with siblings may change. You may fight with the people you love the most in this world. They say death either brings out the best in people or the worst in people. You will find this to be true. As much as you hate it and swear it will never happen to your family, a loss like this may cause irreparable damage to some of your relationships. Try not to let it. Remember – everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way. It’s when we place expectations of how/when/for how long to grieve on others that feelings are hurt. Things can be said and done in a highly emotional state that will never be able to be taken back. If you’ve been holding it in for years how much someone in your family has annoyed or hurt you, now is not the time to voice that. No one is in their right mind, and no one will hear it the way you want them to. We, as humans, tend to go into very self-centered, self-preserving behavior when we hurt so deeply. Our hurt, our grief, our sorrow, our loss is paramount. It is important to remember that to each person grieving, their grief is the biggest thing in the room. The truth is, grief will now always be in the room. The ever present, uninvited, rude guest who has overstayed her welcome. I use a female pronoun because, to me, grief is a cold, heartless, cruel bitch. 

You will divide your life into categories: Before they died. After they died. Dates from here on out will cause you to file  everything into one of those categories. 

The year of firsts is horrible. It seems like you can’t get a moments rest from grieving, because every time you turn around, there’s a new “first.” The first holiday without them. Their first birthday in heaven. Your first birthday when that parent won’t be calling you way too early in the morning to give you crap about getting older (as mine always did.) The big crescendo is the first anniversary of their death. You will want to lie around and shut out the world and cry all day. Lie, shut out and cry if you must. But at some point on that day – on all the days of those “firsts” – take just a moment to remember them and smile at all the wonderful memories you shared. And share that with the others grieving with you. Then, the next day, you get up and you live. Because that is what they would want you to do. I know for a fact my dad would kick my ass if he knew how much I “carry on and fuss and cry” about him. I can almost hear him reprimanding me for it all the time. 

I wish I could tell you it gets easier. That has not been my experience. I can say that I deal with it differently now, almost four years later, but the pain and heartache today is every bit as raw as the day he died. I get so effing MAD when I still go to pick up the phone to call my dad about something. Or when I panic for half a second because I didn’t get his Father’s Day card/gift in the mail yet and it won’t reach him in time. (How great would it be if heaven had mail service?) WHY does the mind allow you to that to yourself?! How is it possible to momentarily forget that it’s real? That they are really gone? Yep. She’s a cold bitch, that grief. 

You will feel the pain and heartache and profound loss every day. But you will have sweet, sweet moments when you feel their presence with you. They will come to you in a dream, a song, a memory, a beautiful sunny day, the way one of your kids does something that reminds you of them. A million ways, they will be there. Not in the way we would like, but there nonetheless. And I promise, one day, you will feel them and remember them and be filled with love and happiness – not tears. You may feel guilt over not being constantly sad, and while it’s normal to feel that way, it is important to remember that your grief and your tears are not what ties you to their memory. This is something with which I have personally struggled. 

After the funeral, everyone leaves… they go home, you go back to your job and your other responsibilities, but you are left with your blinding grief and pain. The calls, visits, texts, etc. all slowly subside. It’s not because people no longer care. I think they just don’t know what else to do, other than leave you to try to pick up the pieces and move forward in your grief journey. You are not going to “get over this.” You will never be the same. You will wonder how the sun dares to continue to shine; how the world continues to turn while yours is falling apart. Grief will be your constant companion. But one day, you’ll realize that you have the ability to tuck that grief safely away in your pocket for a bit, in order to continue living your life. But there will always be times when it falls out of that pocket, landing at your feet, causing you to trip right over it. Go ahead and fall…but don’t stay there.  

However you need to grieve is the right way for you. And you are NOT alone. ❤️

My last birthday in my 30’s

Well, this is it. My 39th birthday. My journey to 40 begins. 

Do you ever stop and look at your life, or look at yourself in the mirror and think to yourself: “this is SO not where/who I thought I’d be when I was this age.”? 

Me, too. 

I also remember thinking people who were this age were SO. Super. Old. I mean…ancient. But the older I get, the younger people older than me seem. Read it again. You’ll get it. 

Hanging around my teenage daughter and her friends, I swear I’m the cool mom. I actually GET what they’re saying. I get the stupid crap boys do. They haven’t changed. Mean girls are still mean girls — only meaner with more ways to be mean. I remember this age, this time in life, like it was yesterday. Because it WAS yesterday, right?? No. No, it wasn’t. It was 25 years ago. That’s when I was where my oldest daughter is now. How can I feel so young, yet so damn old? 

But let’s get honest for a moment. The truth is, I’m not at all who or where I want to be. And I have no one to blame but myself. I control me. Period. Of course, there have been things that have happened that I never could’ve foreseen – not in a million years. Maybe calling attention to their existence is a cop-out on my part. But the reality is, if I’m not happy with me and certain things in my life, I have only myself to blame. 

[What did she say?!] Yep. Accountability. 

I wake up and give my “ok” every day. My “all I got to give.” Not my best. I know that. And more importantly, I know why. I know what things weigh so heavily on my heart, soul, body, mind, spirit, that make me feel this way. And I have cowered to these reasons for far too long. 

Is this going to sound cliché? Yes. It is. But my last year in my 30’s is going to be one hell of a year for me. A year of transformation. A year of letting go. A year of speaking up, speaking out. A year of forgiveness. A year of enlightenment. A year of awakening. I will slowly start to recognize that woman staring back at me in the mirror. And I will love her. 

Yes. I will love her. 

#FortyByForty  

   

Tales of insom-nom-nom-nia

I saw a funny thing about this insom-nom-nom-nia phenomenon today (when you just eat whenever you can’t sleep), and forwarded it to my sister for a good laugh. In texting back and forth with her, I had apparently never told her this story. And judging by her “Lmfaoooooo…X 2” reply, I thought others might get a kick out of it, too.

About 6 years ago, my now ex-husband and I had just separated, sold our house, and were in the midst of divorce proceedings. I had moved into an apartment, and sleep was not on the agenda. Not at all. I’ve always been a horrible sleeper, but with everything going on, it was getting ridiculous and i could barely function. That, and I was too busy smelling the ganja that came wafting down from the upstairs apartment and wishing I could be that young, stupid & carefree.

Anyway… my doctor put me on Ambien to help me sleep. I never took it when my girls were with me because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake if they needed me, because I mean this.shit.worked.

Stress usually gives me a very unsettled stomach and nothing — I mean NOTHING sounds good to eat. You may recall the “Peanuts & Coke” story with my mom. If you’re not familiar, it’s worth a read. I figured I could at least drop a few pounds since the rest of my life was going down the crapper. My very own silver lining.

So imagine my disgust when I actually GAINED a couple pounds. I couldn’t figure it out. I hardly ate, fidgeted like crazy, was sleeping well at least a few nights a week. I thought for sure I would’ve lost a pound or two.

I started finding orange residue in my bed — on my pillowcase, down in the sheets, etc. I never eat in bed and usually don’t let my kids do it, either, but I figured they must’ve gotten in there with food at some point.

When I started finding the kitchen cabinets open in the morning, food on the counter, crumbs everywhere, I thought I was losing it. I know I didn’t eat that crap and I couldn’t blame it on the kids, because #1. They couldn’t reach the stuff, and #2. They weren’t with me when it would happen. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, but I’m not ashamed to tell you that I seriously thought the potheads from upstairs were sneaking into my apartment and eating my shit while I slept because they ran out of food because they smoked too much pot and had insane munchies and didn’t buy food because all they bought was POT!!! Yes, I know that was a huge run-on sentence, and a bit on the paranoid side, but it could happen. It was a house turned into a duplex. And I may or may not have pushed a big table in front of the door where they could’ve gained access and used the back door from that point on.

It wasn’t until one morning when I woke up with the orange residue everywhere again — my fingers, my hair, my face — everywhere. Coupled with the realization that I had a mouthful of shit (not literally shit, just shit, as in, why am I waking up with food in my mouth?!?), all the cheesey pieces of the puzzle started coming together. And there was no denying the bag of Cheetos in my hands. But seriously, wtf? What was even happening? I had NO recollection of eating any of this, of getting out of bed, walking to my kitchen cabinets, retreating back to my bed, ready to apparently make love to the Cheetos. (Was it good for YOU, Chester? Because all I got was a big ass and orange stains everywhere.)

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor a few days later and he informed me that yes — sleep WALKING, sleep DRIVING and sleep EATING were indeed possible, albeit rare side effects of Ambien. If it’s rare and unusual, I’m your girl. Uhh…yeah. Thanks, but no thanks there, doc. I’ll take insomnia for 200, Alex. I’ve got enough problems without adding “I consume my weight in Cheetos while I sleep.”

Needless to say, I stopped taking Ambien. They should change their slogan to “Ambien – you won’t give a shit about sleep anymore, because you’ll have bigger problems, fatty.”

This concludes today’s episode of “Tales of insom-nom-nom-nia.” Thank you and goodnight.

An open letter to all moms

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out WHY” – Mark Twain

I first became a mommy a little over twelve years ago. I had “a touch” (<–said with sarcasm) of the baby blues after she was born, and I would just cry at the very sight of my baby girl – of course, I cried when the wind shifted directions, too (post partum nonsense). But mostly, I cried because she was just so amazingly perfect and beautiful, and for the first time in my life, I realized WHY I WAS BORN. This tiny, beautiful, perfect little girl was my purpose. I was born to be HER mother.

Because of life-long female medical problems, I wondered if I would ever be a mother. I had one miscarriage before my first daughter was born, and another miscarriage between my first and second daughter. To say I had rough pregnancies would be an understatement. My second little miracle came three years after my first. She came blazing into my world two months ahead of schedule and spent the first month of her life in the hospital. As I spent every single day, all day, at her side, I kind of had an inner dialogue with myself that perhaps pregnancy is not for me. Motherhood, yes. Pregnancy, not so much. It hated my guts. But I have always been, and always will be, eternally grateful for the two amazing little girls that take up space in my heart and in my arms.

As wonderful and rewarding as it is, this being a mom thing is NOT for wussies. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the weak in spirit. It is not for the selfish. It is not for the weak-stomached. It is not for the weak-minded. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is wearing your heart on the outside of your body, and praying that you just don't screw up. It is being the only one in the house who can clean up puke without puking herself. It is being pooped on, peed on, puked on. It is picking baby boogers out of their nose with your long pinky nail because it's the only thing small enough to get it – screw that booger-sucker thing. It is sneaking into a sleeping baby's room like you're 16 and it's past curfew. It's the legitimate desire to throat-punch anyone who disturbs your sleeping baby. It is the sharp-tongued pre-teen whose words can cut like a knife. It is the same pre-teen who comes crying to you and needs to be hugged because they got in a fight with their best friend. It is going without things for yourself so you can provide things for your kids – and being ok with that. It is rarely getting to eat a warm meal at the same time as everyone else. It is sometimes rarely eating a meal while actually being seated. It is sometimes being the bad guy, the mean parent, the "heavy" to your kids because that is what's best for them. It is pride-swallowing. It is humbling. It is relishing every opportunity to escape for 30 uninterrupted minutes to read a book, take a shower, talk on the phone, hear yourself think. It is giving up your boobs to a baby who wants to be constantly attached to them and when THEY aren't on them, a breast pump is – making you feel less like the sex kitten you used to be, and more like a momma cat nursing her kitten. It is giving up your right to sleep in your own bed with your husband alone. It is being questioned and judged by other parents. Sometimes it means giving up or doing without. It means trying to explain the unexplainable to the little faces looking to you for answers you simply don't have. It means standing in the middle of the store, literally rendered speechless, watching your 9 and 12 year olds act like they've never been in public or have any concept of manners, and only being able to muster up the words very slowly "Have..you…lost…your…minds?". It is leaving your child at their very first apartment and feeling pride and sadness all at once. Sometimes, it is realizing that your child has special needs – different from other children. It is realizing a hundred times exactly what your mother meant when she warned you of certain things 25 years ago. It is beating yourself up for forgetting an important school function. It is being so overwhelmed with love that you feel your heart just might burst. It is realizing that you should've told your mom more often how much you appreciate everything she did for you. Sometimes, it is realizing that there are no more chances to say or do the things you should've. It is realizing that if you have a 9-year-old, they are half-way to being "grown". It is realizing how precious time is. It is realizing that someone always has it worse. It is feeling pain for a friend who has to bear the unthinkable and bury a child. It is feeling hurt (and in a way guilty) for a friend who cannot conceive a child of her own. It is feeling invisible sometimes – like you're just the man behind the scenes who make everything happen but no one really pays attention to. It is constantly questioning the choices you make as a parent. It is facing criticism as a single parent. It is being a model for your showing your son or daughter how to pick the right partner for them — and teaching them to be the right partner for someone else. It is having your children be the first thing you think of when you wake up, and the last thing you think of before you fall asleep. It is realizing that you aren't perfect – and that's ok. You aren't the perfect parent, but you are the best one for your kids — however they became yours — because that is YOUR purpose. No one else can do what YOU can do for them. No one else can take YOUR place.

I will lay my head down tonight, once again grateful for my two little blessings, and grateful for my mom and ALL the wonderful women in my life who have made me who I am today.

No…this being a mother thing is NOT for wussies. I am woman. I AM A MOTHER. Hear me roar.

Umm…there’s no prize or anything

SAMSUNG

Let me just start this off with a healthy dose of honesty – I am FULL of awesome ideas. But every once in a while, I pull one out of the ol’ bad idea box and run with it. Those are the ones that usually seem like great ideas at the time, and only reveal their crappiness at a later date.

To better understand this particular story, I should give a little bit of a background here. My sister and I are like two peas in a pod. And our dad was the third pea. The three of us were so much alike in our personalities, our sense of humor, the way we would tease each other. So when his last birthday came around – our first without him – we felt we needed to do something together…something special.

I took the day off work, and we started out eating breakfast at a local diner – one that my family has eaten at for years, kind of a family favorite. At breakfast, we talked a little bit about what we thought we should do for the rest of the day. The goal was to just honor our dad on his birthday and try not to start crying.

We thought we’d get some balloons, write messages to dad on them, and release them down by the river. Simple enough, right? WRONG. There was a national shortage of helium (seriously), so finding helium-filled balloons proved to be not such an easy task. On our third trip to a store trying to find helium, we found some pre-filled mylar foil balloons – one that said “happy birthday” and the other was just a smiley face. Alright, fine. That’s just going to have to do.

As we were looking around the store, we stumbled across this package of yellow rubber ducks. One big one, and two smaller ones. GENIUS!! The big one is dad, and the two smaller ones are US! Omigosh, it’s PERFECT! So we got the two balloons, the package of rubber ducks, a black sharpie, party hats and a 2-pack of Butterfinger candy bars – dad’s favorite – and we headed on down to the river.

To help you paint a mental picture, we drove separately down to the river and parked right along the edge and I got into my sister’s car. Lucky us, we pulled up next to some old dude in a truck who didn’t really try to hide the “WTF?” expression on his face as we took turns with the sharpie, writing the messages on our balloons, going back and forth from tears to laughter. We had the windows rolled partially down, and his were completely down, so he really had a front seat to our little freak show.

I decided to have a little fun with things, so I took the rubber ducks out and started drawing on them. I drew broken hearts on the chests of the two little ones (obviously), and wrote my and my sister’s names on the bottom. Then, I drew my dad’s trademark necklace, his two tattoos, an earring, and hair on the big duck. The resemblance was uncanny.

Then – in a stroke of genius – I had the best idea ever. (Me to my sister: “hey – let’s put ‘if found, please call [my phone #]’ on the ducks and the balloons to see how far they go!”) Ok. Fine. Maybe I’ve seen one too many “Message in a Bottle” type movies. Whatever. My thought at the time was that, say…if it traveled an hour away, NEXT year for dad’s birthday, we would do the same thing from wherever that location was, and so on an so forth. Y’know, kinda like a “grief around the world” type thing.

So… On two balloons and one of the ducks (the biggest), I wrote my phone number and “If found, please call”. We released the balloons, and after a very slow start, they were up, up, and away. The ducks, on the other hand, were little bastards. We took turns tossing ours into the water, and watched them float about 20 feet, and then they just kinda hugged and kissed the shoreline for a good ten minutes. We finally left with the notion that the river current would carry them further downstream.

I need to add something here so that you have a better idea of where this is going. I live in the Midwest, and one thing about us Midwesterners is that we LOVE us some festivals. Parades, food, carnival rides and craft shows all centered around some sort of theme – a flower, a gourd, a bird, etc. Some of these festivals kick off with some “treasure hunt” type shenanigans, which involves reading clues and hunting all over the city for this special object. Once found, the finder is given instructions to “call this number” to verify the authenticity of the object. The super sleuth who finds it is awarded with some very nice prizes – a cruise, goods and services from local businesses, etc. It’s a pretty big deal around here. And it just so happens that my dad’s birthday was one week after one of these festivals.

Fast-forward to a few days after my dad’s birthday. My phone rings. It’s a local number, but not one I’m familiar with. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling this number because I found this duck!”
Me: (thinking OMG, yay, it worked!) “yeah, where did you find it?”
Caller: (still enthusiastic) “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge, so I picked it up and called the number!”
Me: (well that SUCKS. That’s freaking EXACTLY where I put the little bastard in the water) <– and that’s actually exactly what I said to her.
….. LONG PAUSE …..
Me: “Uhhmmm…yeah…there’s no prize or anything, I’m sorry. We just—It was— We just wanted to see how far it would go.”
Caller: “Oh. Ok.” <– and it wasn’t cheerful, like “Oh. Ok. No biggie, thanks anyway” It was more like “Oh. Ok. EFF YOU AND YOUR STUPID SCIENCE PROJECT.”
POP! went her bubble. She probably would’ve punched me and spit in my eye if we were face to face.
…… END OF CONVERSATION …

At this point, I was half pissed, and half amused. I was pissed that the stupid rubber duck traveled a whopping ZERO FEET in three days, but super amused that this chick found the duck, bee-lined her ass to a phone and called the rubber ducky prize hotline, only to be met with “Uhhhmm…yeah, there’s no prize or anything.” What a dick move on my part, right?

So I told my sister about it. We laughed and agreed that dad was most certainly getting a kick out of all of this. End of story. –WRONG.

A few more days pass, and again, local phone number unknown to me, is calling my phone. I answer.

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (with TONS of enthusiasm) “Hi, yeah, I’m calling because I found this duck and it said to call this number!”
Me: (thinking to myself – you have GOT to be shitting me) “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. There’s actually not a prize or anything. It was something we did for my dad’s birthd—just never mind. I’m sorry. But, since you called, can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “It was floating in the river down by (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Of course it was. Thanks for calling.”
She hung up on me.

Again – half pissed, half amused. PISSED because this meant that the first caller, probably in a fit of rage over not winning anything on the rubber ducky prize hotline, just launched that sucker right back into the river, probably cussing me the whole time….which set Caller #2 up for HER letdown. AMUSED because – well… for the very same reason.

I figured that this last chick – since she hung up on me – would just throw the duck in the garbage. Then again, I thought the first woman would have done the same thing. I was wrong on both counts.

So another several days pass. By this time, it’s been about two weeks since my dad’s birthday, and over a week since I heard from the last would-be rubber duck millionaire. So imagine my surprise when I received a call from a MAN that went a little something like this:

Me: “Hello?”
Caller: (again with the enthusiasm right outta the gate) “Hey there, I found this duck floatin’ in the river and it had this phone number on it!”
Me: (Sigh with head-shaking)“Can I ask where you found it?”
Caller: “I found it in (MyTown) down at the (MyTown) bridge.”
Me: “Yeah…it’s been there for two weeks. It was just something we did to see how far it would go, but apparently it’s broken. I’m sorry…there’s not a prize or anything.”
Caller: “oh…” – Mr. Happy Pants has left the building and has been replaced with Mr. Pissy Pants.
Me: “Would you mind doing me a favor and just throw the thing in the garbage for me. Don’t throw it back in the river.”
Caller: “yeah.” —dial tone.

I have to believe he actually did throw it away, because I never heard from anyone else.

This whole thing had me so perturbed. I mean REALLY – can’t a girl just try out an awesome idea without it backfiring in her face by getting three total strangers pissed off at her? Can people not be so greedy? They call up all nice-y nice sweetie pie, and then one “I’m sorry, but there’s no prize or anything” and they turn into a-holes. I mean, these people were seriously…pissed…off. I’m sorry, but did someone sneak some writing onto the duck that said “If found please call this number TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE???” I think not. I didn’t promise anything. I just said “If found, please call”. I mean, it’s not like it was a briefcase or a bag of money floating. It was A RUBBER DUCK FLOATING IN WATER. That’s pretty much their sole purpose. And while I’m on that subject, can someone find me a damn rubber duck that might actually FLOAT? Is THAT too much to ask? Well, technically, I guess “floating” wasn’t really the issue. He actually really excelled at that particular area. But how about one that might actually flow with a current or something? I mean it was very early fall, so I know boats were still traveling through. You’d think some wake action might move the damn thing along. Nope. Not my duck. Mine was a stubborn little $h!t that apparently came with an anchor.

You had ONE JOB, rubber duck. ONE JOB.

But then I just couldn’t stop thinking of how awesome it would’ve been to actually SEE all of this. And the more I told about these people calling me thinking they’d won something and me shooting them down when I tried to explain what I thought was a great idea, the more I realized it really just needed to be told on a broader spectrum…because it’s just absolutely typical of things that only happen to me.

I think we can all take away a valuable lesson from all of this. Well, maybe two lessons. #1 – I’m putting my sister’s phone number on things from now on. #2 – Nicholas Sparks and Sting are both full of CRAP and they can just knock it off with their “Message in a Bottle” crappery that puts such stupid ideas and CRAP in the heads of sentimental fools like me. And again I say CRAP.

But all in all, I got exactly what I wanted – something that brought honor to my dad, and did so in a way that he would have LOVED. With each phone call when I was having to explain myself, hearing the “whammy” sounder in my head as I let these greedy bastards down, feeling dumber and dumber about my idea, I could hear his cackling laughter. I have no doubt that he orchestrated the whole thing. I don’t know what we’ll do for his next birthday, but I’m not sure anything else could have quite the “bite me in the ass” backfire effect that this did. But if it does…I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

2012 in review….not bad, considering my year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Could you help me with this thing here? Yes, you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP37RQ7pmW0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I absolutely LOVE the Golden Girls. My twin cousins and I would spend every Saturday night with our Grandma, and we would all watch it together. Watching old episodes brings me almost as much comfort as my grandma’s hugs used to, or a comfy sweatshirt, or wearing my favorite faded black velvet pants with paint stains. They’re just plain comfortable.

If this linked correctly, it’s a clip from an episode where the ever-so-over-dramatic Blanche decides to write the world’s greatest novel. She comes dramatically out onto the “lenai” and professes to have writer’s block – something she claims to be the worst feeling in the world. I love Sophia’s banter about 10 days without a bowel movement being worse than that, but this clip leaves out the best part. Right after where this cuts off, Dorothy asks Blanche: “Well how much have you written?”
Blanche: “That’s just IT, I haven’t written A THING!”
Dorothy: “That’s not writer’s block, Blanche…otherwise WE ALL HAVE IT.”

I can’t explain it…but that episode just kills me. The sarcasm of Dorothy. The drama of Blanche. The outspoken Sophia. Rose just being…Rose. The truth in all of it. I love it.

In a roundabout way, I guess I’m trying to say that I have writer’s block, but not exactly like Blanche. I’ve got lots to write about, to talk about, to cry about, to smile about, to laugh about, to be mad and hurt about, to joke about, etc. –but I can’t just sit and do it. I want to. I need to. And I love to…but I just…(ahh…i hate saying it)….can’t.

I’ve stated in my few blogs since my father’s death, that I fear if I start writing, I may not be able to stop. So I don’t know if that is what’s keeping me from it, or something else.

Do you ever feel like you’re on the verge of something…you don’t know what it is, good or bad, big or small…but you feel it…and you don’t know whether to jump and shout and leap tall buildings in a single bound, or go sit in the corner in your faded black velvet paint-stained pants and just sit quietly until someone comes and picks you up and says “hey, snap out of it”??

Yeah. Me too. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of all that.

I need your help, reader(s). (If there are any of you left.) Since I can’t get the words from my brain to the keyboard very well (or often), help me out. Whether you know me or not, new reader or followed since blog #1 – what would YOU like me to write about? I’m serious… Please comment and I will pick something from the comments to write about. If you know me, it should be easy for you. If you’re a complete stranger, better yet. Read some of my other stuff and ask questions. I need something to get my creative juices flowing again. (My REAL creative juices…not the pretend ones I keep boldly “pinning” like it’s my job.)

Help a sister out. I know I can write. Just help me through my version of writer’s block. I promise it’ll be honest and entertaining if nothing else.

Readers’ Choice.  Let’s do this.

Oh, and if my sister-in-law happens to read this, I’m still waiting on the Xanax casserole that was promised last Christmas. I’m starting to think that was just a bunch of talk.

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