Press (re)Start.

24 February 2015 | 5 Comments

When I don’t want to do something, I have a really hard time starting.  When I’m stressed.  When I’m tired.  When I am embarrassed, angry, and overwhelmed.  It is easier to hide or immerse myself in something mindless, have you played Trivia Crack?  My mostly rational mind is clued into the fact that this is a by-product of the ADD, but my overwhelmed reaction (ding ding ding, also the ADD) sees it as a series of hurdles. 

And you know my booty isn’t making it over any hurdles.

The thing is, it bothers me, being away from here as much as I have been, but there are some other things I needed to spend my energy on.  It’s kind of like that put your own oxygen mask on, then your kids’ when the reality is you’re going to see their face and put their mask on first.  And I did, but it’s also a bullshit cop out excuse too.  Because everyone knows in the crazy airline demonstrations, doing that just makes you pass out while your kids are fine.  I’m pretty sure mine would just poke me with a stick because they want a snack. 

Coming back for a quickie “hi, how are ya,” in the midst of all of that, seemed like kind of a jackass thing to do.  So, I just didn’t.  I would be like that friend who just shows up unannounced to your party, because you put it on Facebook.  Sure, you forgot that friend wasn’t under your ‘acquaintance’ list, they aren’t really invited, if we’re being honest but, they still show up and make it all awkward.  Yep.  That about sums it up.

Ooooh, is that Chex mix?

And, no, I’m not going to talk about it just yet, the other stuff, but I will.  Probably.  Just not right now.  << I also hate when people do things like that,  WHO does that?  Annoying people, on your acquaintance list, that’s who.  But, you already know that. 

Unless you’re new.

In which case, um, hi, I’m Michelle, you can totally come sit by me.  I’ll probably even be back here tomorrow.  Maybe.

I am pressing the re-start button.  While crossing my fingers it doesn’t crash the system. 

What’s new with you?

Is Being a Mom Hard?

07 January 2015 | 8 Comments

We were sitting at the table and I was frustrated. 

It had been a very long day.  I was tired.  We had a snow day, on the very first day I was supposed to get two hours and fifteen minutes of blissful quiet time in two very long weeks.  They alternated all day between being the best of friends and relentless bickering.  I. Just. Wanted. To. Clean. Out. My. Stupid. Over-stuffed. Closet.  That was my goal for the two hours and fifteen minutes of quiet time while my youngest was supposed to be at preschool.  I wanted to listen to something with adult lyrics and drink coffee and pull out all of those old maternity clothes and too skinny pants that had somehow gotten tucked into the depths of the closet. 

That, and I’m not going to lie, there are some hideous shirts I was hoping to sneak out of Dave’s side too.

Instead, I was refereeing.  By dinnertime, I was pretty close to my exasperation limit, when Tate declared how much she LOVED her steak taco.  She wasn’t just saying how much she loved it, she was telling me that it was the BEST taco ever.  You would think, that winning dinner with a three and a half year old would be a good thing.  It might have been, but all I could do was stare in disbelief.  I wondered if maybe, an alien had taken over her body?  That had to be the answer.  She couldn’t be my daughter, the one who had thrown an epic, nightmare inducing, tantrum meltdown on New Year’s Eve because, that’s right, we had dared serve her steak. 

After dinner, I was skimming Finn’s homework from the night before and asked him do a couple more math problems for practice.  Math is one of those things that we struggle with.  I say “we” because I’m trying to decipher just where his gaps in learning are from a grade skip, so new concepts don’t completely blindside him, while simultaneously not screwing him up with my ‘old math’ ways.  And he?  He’s just trying to figure out how fractions relate to measurement.  He did the problems, but I wondered if he really grasped it.

“Mom, is being a parent hard?  Like, is it a hard job?  Because sometimes, it seems like it’s really hard for you,” he asked, sliding over to give me a hug.

Most days, I hope as a mom that I’m doing more right than wrong.  Some days, though, I wonder if that is true.  That’s difficult for me to say out loud.  To admit, I am far from the world’s best mom.  There are two sweet faces looking to me for an answer that I don’t always have.  There are days I feel like a failure.  I am a  completely crap ‘new math’ explainer, I am a zombie in the morning, and there are days that I tell him to hustle because we’re late and he’s got four minutes to get to class.  I wonder if I’m asking the right questions, wonder if they’re really happy, or if they’re going to think that we somehow screwed up their childhood when they are grown. 

See?  I assume that my parenting, will probably lead to therapy. 

It’s not easy or for the faint of heart, this parenting thing.  Well, some days it’s easy and those days feel like a gift.  They exist, I’m convinced, to make sure we don’t eat our young, when we’re confronted with, “This is the most boring house ever!” as you glance at the thirty five choices for entertainment in your immediate vicinity.

Almost daily, I wage a fierce debate that chocolate is not considered a ‘healthy’ snack and wonder would if it would be much easier to just feed Tate all the chocolate her belly can handle.  Have you ever examined the logic of a three and a half year old?  It’s the stuff that torture is made of.  I’m also trying not to yell because I don’t want to be that yeller mom whose kids roll their eyes and tune out, but I still swear too much.  Some days I have to consciously remind myself that it’s OK to close the door and take a minute to finish cleaning out the closet while they argue about who cut off who’s hand with a fake plastic light saber.  Then I wonder, should I be concerned that they are cutting off each other’s hands with plastic light sabers?  Isn’t that the first sign of the dark side? 

There are days that I’d love to not be the elected vomit cleaner.  Or nag about homework.  Or break up sibling squabbles.  Or days when I’m too freaking tired to try to figure out new math, so I don’t screw up my seven year old.  As long as we’re making this list, I also, unquestionably, still mourn the loss of sleeping in on Saturday mornings. 

I tell myself regularly, it’s normal to have failure.  It’s normal to make mistakes and admit when you’re wrong.  It’s normal to have tough days when you just want to give up and start over in the morning.  It’s normal to wonder if you’re the ONLY one screwing up your kids.   

When your frustration is maxed out.  When you’re at a loss for how to handle something.  When you are desperately searching for that child rearing manual they MUST have forgotten to give you when you brought this baby home.  When your seven year old sees you struggle.

I hugged Finn and considered all of these things before I replied.  I am smart enough to know that my days of unprovoked snuggles are numbered.  “Probably the hardest and best job I’ve ever had,” I confessed.  “I know I screw it up.  I probably make mistakes all the time.  But, I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world.”

“Well, I’m never having kids if they’re as bad as Tate,” he replied and packed up his homework.

They will test our limits, are crazy freaking mess tornados, and bicker with each other.  They will make us worry, tell white lies, and forget their manners.  They will exasperate us, make bad choices, and probably not always be nice.  And we still have a job because of it. 



05 January 2015 | 4 Comments

A week ago, I took this picture of Tate and my Meme.  Tate would argue that it’s her Meme, but I have 38 years worth of dibs that I am prepared to cash in.   

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This night, she was laughing and rocking in her chair, as Tate poorly serenaded her with Let It Go.  My cousins were here from Chicago, filling her in on basketball and college acceptance letters.  Her house was full.  She was happy, that Meme of ours. 

It was my cousin, who called me, just twenty-four short hours later.  “They think Meme had a stroke,” and that is when the pleading started.

What would I say if I had five more minutes?  Five more days?  Twenty-five more years?  Should I have…  I wish I would have… 

You wrestle the cold fear with the hoping… for just a little bit longer, a little more time.  You plead with the universe to make this ok.  You question how you’d even cope with this idea, this life that would feel so wrong without her in it.  Though, you know she’d argue with you and state, in her pragmatic, very Meme way, that she’s ninety and you can’t live forever.  You realize too, that not fully functioning or living on her own, is pretty much her biggest fear.   

So, you sit.  And you wait. And you feel helpless.

She had gone to bed, the night the photo was taken and woke in the middle of the night with a headache.  A headache that hadn’t gone away the next morning either.  My aunt had driven to her house that morning and told her that we should cancel having people over and Meme brushed her off because she wanted the kids to open their gifts.  She said she was going to rest for a little bit and by the time all of the great-grandchildren arrived in the early afternoon, things had only gotten worse.  My aunts were concerned, but Meme argued that she didn’t want anything to do with taking her blood pressure.  My cousin had asked her a question and she seemed confused and couldn’t answer.  By the time Dave and I arrived at the house a little later that afternoon, she was feeling sick and disoriented.  She tried to convince me that she’d have a cup of coffee to settle her upset stomach, until I pointed out that coffee was probably not a great choice for an upset stomach.

She asked me the next night, twenty-four hours after her stroke, as I was sitting with her, how we knew, or thought to take her to the hospital.

My answer to her was simple.  “I walked into your room and said, we’re going to take you over right now to get your blood pressure checked, just to be on the safe side.  Your only response to me was, OK and a little sigh.  I knew that something was very, very wrong if you weren’t pissed at me about going to the hospital.”  She chuckled a little because she’s a stubborn ox and she knows it.  She doesn’t even remember that conversation, or much of me being there at her house at all, but she vaguely remembers that Dave drove her.   She laughed when I likened getting her ready for the hospital, to the worst version of Cinderella, ever.  My cousin and I were down on the floor, each trying to wedge her feet, with her poor arthritic toes, into a pair of moccasins, the only shoes I could find in her closet.  I told her, we thought she had lost it because she had two completely different colored socks on.  She wiggled her feet, those ridiculous socks still on her feet in the ICU, and explained that she had lost one of each of the pair.

She doesn’t remember us leaving the ER to pick up our kids.  We suspected it was just her sodium level off again.  Knowing full well when it was fixed that she’d be pissed about being there we preferred leaving that to my aunts.  Nor does she remember sitting with my aunts, still in the emergency room some hours later, awaiting test results and suddenly, not making any sense.  Or, that she couldn’t even answer simple questions from the neurologist.  She doesn’t remember the decision being made to give her the tPA shot, or our visits with her that night as we waited to see if it might work. 

But there, twenty-four hours later, it clearly had. 

Sometimes you’re gifted with it, that beautiful second chance.  This morning, we were there, at her house, she and Tate were snuggled up in her chair again, thick as thieves, this time watching cartoons.  I’d argue that all of it makes you appreciate what you have, but then, I think we’ve always realized how lucky we are to have her.  I’ll take five more hours, or five more months, or twenty-five more years, whatever we’re thankful to have been given. 

If You’re White, You’re Probably Part of the Problem.

05 December 2014 | 5 Comments
My name is Michelle and I’m about the whitest white girl you’ll ever meet.  I don’t consider myself a racist.  In fact, quite the opposite, racism makes me angry.  The N-word is one I wouldn’t even consider using.  I do have friends of many races, dated a black man, and voted to put President Obama into the highest office in the nation.  Twice.   

I am still part of the problem, the catalyst, causing rioting in Ferguson, Missouri and protests everywhere from New York to Los Angeles.  And you probably are too.

Before you full-on, start freaking out, I want you to listen.  To really listen, and consider the possibility, no matter how defensive it might make you, that I just might be right.

I woke last Tuesday morning, to a newsfeed filled with thoughts about Ferguson.  It was mostly for the business owners who were losing their life’s work because of the riots that had erupted.  There were prayers for the safety of law enforcement and firefighters.  There were admonishments too, of how absolutely stupid and pointless it was to riot and destroy things and how it wouldn’t accomplish anything.  There were disapprovals and tsk tsks over flag burning.  There was this underlying anger for lack of a better word, anger for what the rioters were doing.

What doesn’t make ANY sense to me, is why we have more empathy for a business owner losing their property or someone burning the flag, than we do for a black eighteen year old who lost his life.  Does anyone else find this to be a mortifying reflection of our present culture?  Because this whitey, white girl is raising her hand and frantically waving it around.

Now, you’ll deny the fact that your comments meant anything racist, and I will give you the benefit of the doubt.  You’ll defend the fact that, the business owners you referred to were of any race.  The greater problem that I see is, you’re not even considering the possibility that the people rioting or those protesting peacefully, might have an absolutely valid reason to do so.   For what it is worth, the Boston Tea Party, was also a riot.  I’m thanking the freedom of speech that I freely use, that everyone on Facebook didn’t exist to tell John Adams that he was a destructive loser thug, too.   You’re worried about stuff getting burned or looted, rather than an eighteen year old who died because his skin was brown.  Marinate in that. 

Have you considered when you, collectively, are not being heard… as black Americans clearly aren’t right now, you do something about that?  You stand up and speak out.  Only… for white Americans, speaking out is usually enough to be heard.  So, maybe you can’t even comprehend that for black Americans, it often isn’t.  

This rioting, and the peaceful protests too, it isn’t about the fact that there wasn’t an indictment last week.  It isn’t really even about Michael’s death, except perhaps, to his parents and those who loved him.  It’s about us.  It’s about a nation of people, who knowingly or not, collectively perpetuate a culture of inequality. 

Ignorance shouldn’t be our excuse, you just have to be willing to open your eyes.

There is the very obvious problem that, we don’t shoot and kill white teenagers over a stolen pack of cigars, but Michael died.  White Harvard professors aren’t harassed for breaking in to their own houses, but Henry was.  We don’t kill white twelve year olds for being the absolute idiots that we all know twelve year old boys can be, but Tamir was shot two and a half seconds after the police pulled up.  We don’t have vigilantes killing white teenagers for simply being white and walking in their neighborhood, but Treyvon’s mom will never hold her son again.  We don’t shoot white men mistakenly over a pill bottle that was thought to be a gun, but Rumain is dead.  That happened last week in Phoenix and it has barely made the national news cycle.  And we sure don’t choke hold and kill a white man on video over selling a cigarette for fifty cents while he begs for his life and says over and over that he can’t breathe, as Eric did.

Those things are in our face and we ignore them, we explain them away.  We blame the way the legal system works.  The fact is, we don’t “fear for our lives” and kill white young men when they punch a police officer.  Not even when they are drunk MMA fighters with drug convictions, and we certainly do not leave their bodies lying in the street for four hours.  Those men got the benefit of the doubt, where Michael, Henry, Tamir, Treyvon, Rumain, and Eric did not. 

I’ll bet, if you’re white, you’ve never stopped to consider that simply having brown skin means the ‘rights’ that we all enjoy aren’t actually afforded in an equal manner to everyone.  Because I have heard white people say this, “It’s America, everyone has the opportunity to make something of themselves.”  White people believe this so inherently, I hadn’t even considered it not to be true.

It is so out of the realm of anything we’re taught as a white citizen of the United States, that we simply dismiss these things by saying that people are just being sensitive, or that they are reading into the situation, or that someone didn’t mean it that way.   Just like I did when a few paragraphs above, I said, I’d give you the benefit of the doubt for your comments on Facebook.  We say, “Don’t make this about race.”

That is exactly the point, it already IS about race if you aren’t white.  All the time.  Every day.  It’s about RACE.

I don’t want to hear you say that these men and these boys who were killed were engaged in criminal activity because there are white people who aren’t even looked at twice for things like selling a cigarette for fifty cents.  If your skin is brown, there is racial disparity in police activity, trials, and sentencing.  If your skin is brown, the criminal justice system fails you.   If your skin is brown, well, then, you already know these things.  It isn’t you, who needs to hear them.  To acknowledge them.

As a white person, like it or not, agree with it or not, you still have participated in the collective problem.  By remaining silent.  By dismissing racism in your family or your group of friends.  By not questioning ALL of these things that are in your face.  By simply not recognizing that you have benefited from implicit racial bias.  Just simply because you were born into white skin, you’re granted that benefit of the doubt we’ve all taken for granted.  The ability to move into any neighborhood you can afford without worry that your neighbors might hate you at first glance.  You can smile and wave at a police officer and not get pulled over for something minor like a headlight out.  You might just be considered the best, or most hard working candidate in a stack because your resume doesn’t say Malik, or DeShawn, or Ebony, or Aaliyah.  Your parents didn’t have to consider how white your name might sound when choosing a name that reflects their heritage.  You can simply shut your eyes, as many of you might, and make all of this uncomfortable race talk disappear.  It’s called white privilege.  Here is a great explanation in comic form from 19 year old artist, Jamie Kapp.  

Oh, I hear your indignant cries.  We can’t help the fact that we were born white!  And you are absolutely right, we can’t.  Not at all, in fact.  However, we do have the power to stop dismissing, or making excuses for, or being ignorant of the fact that the United States is different for peach people, than it is for brown people.  Because, it is.  And not one of us should be OK with that.

Truth be told, I don’t even know how we, as a nation, are going to begin fixing this.  Being cognizant of it, recognizing it, and educating yourself is a good start.  We can lend our voices to this conversation and lend our ears to those who have been writing this eloquently for years.  We can say, I believe you, this isn’t ok with me, and what can we do to change this?  We can write a check to the NAACP.  We can ask ourselves, how can we be more sensitive to issues of race.  Even when it’s uncomfortable, especially when you feel awkward.  Even when you don’t know how to begin the discussion… start it anyway. 

It’s time.


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