Cool Mom

I saw a mom the other day cruising through the Atlanta streets with her brood, all elementary age and younger. She had on a tank top that said “Cool Mom.”

Huh.

I am not, and have never aspired to be, a cool mom.

As my own mom liked to say, “I am your mother. Not your little friend. It’s not my job to be your buddy.” I hated it when she said that. Really. I mean, why didn’t she want to be my friend?! But now, I get it. She was something so much greater than my friend….she was my MOM. Larger than life. I loved that woman more than anyone else in my world–even when I swore I hated her (I thought it was my honor-bound duty as a 13 year old to hate her. So dumb.) But I never, not once, mistook her for my friend.

I am a lot of things to Jane. And I know it. Right now, I still get to be her confidante. She wants to dress like me. She laments that her hair isn’t a hot, unbrushed mess like mine. But, still, I’m not cool. For the same reasons my mom didn’t want to be my friend.

It’s not cool to be strict. Or to hold her accountable. Or to insist on respect. It’s decidedly uncool to demand that she say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” when she addresses me. But that’s what I do. I call her out when she’s impolite or hurts people’s feelings. I love her, and comfort her, and celebrate every day of her existence.

But I’m not cool. My exuberance isn’t cool. My dancing really isn’t cool. My constant questions about her life, her thoughts, her friends might not be cool either. I don’t know. And really, I don’t give a shit.

Because I don’t need to be cool. I’m her mom.

I thought about getting a “Strict AF Mom” tank top, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Cool Mom.” So I guess I’ll have to stick to wearing my “Feminist. Sober. Killjoy.” shirt. That about sums it up, I think.

Gay Isn’t an Insult.

Some kid at school “insulted” my baby by calling her “gay.” And I swear, it lit me up… like I wanted to march down to that school and give that damn kid (and every adult in the vicinity of his life) a tongue-lashing he wouldn’t likely forget.

But instead, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself (being an adult involves so much RESPONSIBILITY and a thousand measured responses, when all you really wanna do is call some kid an asshat–but I digress). And then Jane and I started talking.

First up on the agenda: gently reminding Jane that “gay” isn’t an insult. Oh, I don’t doubt for a minute that this kid called her gay to hurt her feelings and to get under her skin. But … hello…. we go to Pride every year, where we celebrate being an LGBTQ family. Some of her very, very favorite adults in the world are two women MARRIED TO EACH OTHER. I swear, I didn’t yell at Jane. I wasn’t mad at her. But I was enraged that, despite all our living into our true selves, all our conversations about being who you are and celebrating that person fully, society has somehow managed to convince her that “gay” can be an insult.

I was mad because my heart was broken.

Statistically, at least one kid in Jane’s class is likely to be gay (even if they don’t know it yet). And, lately, gay kids are killing themselves at alarming rates. I could barely hold back tears when I thought about that gay kid–whoever they might be–pondering coming out one day, then flashing back to second grade when “gay” was hurled around as an insult.

What does that kind of memory do to a kid in crisis?

But what shook me most of all is that in our little liberal alcove of Atlanta, in Jane’s school where diversity is really celebrated, a homophobic “insult” was tossed at our kid–our kid who watched her Bobby transition, who has never seen either of her parents shy away from claiming a queer identity, who loves so many people who are gay–and it cut her to the core.

Because if it impacted her that deeply, what happens to the kids who don’t have adults that tell them being gay is okay? That it’s MORE than okay. That it’s something to celebrate.

What happens to those kids?

Pura Vida, Y’all

Because my best friend is an epic vacation planner, my family & I spent Spring Break in Costa Rica this year with 20 of our closest friends. Literally.

Playa Langosta, Tamarindo, Costa Rica


I could go on and on about this vacation. But that’s kind of reminiscent of the 1970s slide shows that over-enthusiastic travelers would share with their bored to tears friends.

Not cool, man. Not cool.

But I will share what’s been playing over and over in my mind. It’s something our tour guide/transport driver extraordinaire said about the Costa Rican people: They work enough to earn a living. And that’s it. No need to accumulate things. Or buy a bigger house. Or work overtime to climb the corporate ladder. Enough is actually the goal. Not more.

Nature cruise on the Palo Verde River

I guess I feel convicted by that, because it won’t get out of my head. I’ll let you in on a little secret: 7 times out of 10, I’m in a complete tailspin about money. I never, ever feel like we have enough. That scarcity mode of thinking is so toxic. But it’s hard to shake. I grew up in it. And, although we have always gotten by, Simon & I have experienced some pretty lean times.

But we’ve always had enough.

Now, back in the States, I’m considering my own consumerism. What do I have that’s extra? What does having enough mean to me? Have I ever really NOT had enough? Where does my privilege come play with my perceptions?

Recognizing enough, being grateful for enough, not striving for extra, sharing what I have… I am 100% convinced that this is the key to happiness.

This is what it looks like when you know you have enough. It’s bliss.

I know these things, and still… I forget them all the time. So, I’m soul-searching for the stuff that really matters to me. The stuff that is enough. The stuff that is joy and goodness and contentment.

Pura vida.

Vacationing in The Land of the Mouse

Life lessons abound… even in the the most magical place on Earth.

I’ve got a confession: sometimes vacation, as welcome & lovely as it is, throws me off a bit. I am a creature of habit, for sure. So vacation adventures can chip away at my emotional reserves a smidge. Especially when the vacation involves 3 days at Disney World. That’s a lot of hustle & bustle & MAGIC packed into 3 days. And the walking… GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY. We walked 10 miles each day. TEN. MILES.

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We’re lucky because we’ve Disneyed a lot. We lived in Florida for a long time (where they offer some pretty great discounts to visit The Mouse). The Magic Kingdom is one of the most familiar places in the world to me. No, I’m not kidding. And, yes, it’s still magical. There’s something very special about being with Simon and Jane at the Magic Kingdom that I can’t quite quantify. I guess it feels like, for that moment, everything is right and perfect in the world. It’s an escape. And, for us, it really is The Happiest Place on Earth.

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This year, in addition to the Magic Kingdom, we did the 3 other parks, too: EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. And it was at those parks that I learned the most about being human… for better or worse.

I’ve written before about how expectations (especially at Disney) are the death of joy. I still stand by that little nugget of wisdom. But I also discovered a new truth on this trip: passive aggressiveness is the fastest route to NOWHERE. Look, I’ll go ahead and own up to the fact that I spent the first 40+ years of my life being passive aggressive AF. But kind of had to reassess that strategy when my passive aggressive response to some very real pain almost imploded my marriage. So, you know, I’m trying different life strategies now. Like being straightforward. Speaking my truth. And SAYING what it is I want.

What does any of that have to do with Disney? Just be patient. I’m drawing things together here. In the meantime, here’s a cute pic to tide you over:

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Okay, so where was I? Oh, yes…

SOARIN’. I was in line for SOARIN’ at EPCOT. Here’s the deal, in case you don’t know: EPCOT is a nerd’s paradise.

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“An amusement park for nerds,” Jane calls it. Which I think is pretty accurate. And SOARIN’ is the very best part of this nerd delight. It’s like hang-gliding over the WORLD. It’s a popular ride, and you kind of get herded into the cue for it like cattle. Mooooo.

While we were being herded, I guess my family inadvertently passed another family in line. Truly, I was paying no attention to who was in front of or behind me. Because it’s a huge ride that loads dozens at a time. So, it doesn’t really matter. I did notice a young woman edging up on me to try to pass me. But I just found that hella annoying. I couldn’t figure out why she was lurking like that. And why she didn’t just say “excuse me.” I’d have been happy to let her pass, but not if she was going to invade my personal space. (I am way protective of my personal space, which often works against me in an amusement park setting. I try to let it roll off my back like a duck. Quack.)

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It wasn’t until we all paused at the entrance to the loading zone that I understood what had happened. And even then, I only understood because I “overheard” a conversation I was clearly meant to hear. Apparently, the girl edging up on me was part of the family who had been in front of us. I discovered this because I heard the girl ask why “those people” had gotten in front of them. Huh. I didn’t respond–which I realize may have been petty. But no one was talking to me. So I just stood there. Then the mother went on to make some WILD assumptions about what kind of people we are and how we move thorough the world. Well, now I was just PISSED. Which was so dumb. Because if she’d just said. “Hey, we were in front,” I certainly would have let her pass. But her passive aggressiveness made me want to dig my heels in. So I did.

I’m not saying I was in the right. In fact, it doesn’t interest me in the least who was right & who was wrong. Jane and I raced in and out of a crowd at Hollywood studios trying to get to the Slinky Dog Dash (we didn’t get to ride. The wait was 2 hours right after the park opened) and really burned some folks up. We weren’t technically wrong, with our zigging and zagging. But we made people’s day less magical by annoying them, and I felt bad about it later.

And that’s the crux of the thing for me: how do I feel?

Passive aggressiveness makes me feel both angry and impotent. Because there’s nothing to directly respond to. I don’t want the onus of having to parse out someone else’s feelings. I have a tough enough time parsing out my own damn feelings. But the whole experience was a good lesson in speaking my mind and addressing issues head on. And also on not doing things that are unkind or thoughtless, just because they aren’t technically wrong.

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I mean, Donald isn’t WRONG for not wearing pants. He is a duck, after all. But boy was he embarrassed when we pointed it out. Then we all got a good laugh out of it.

Draw whatever metaphor you will from that one.

 

 

Detours

I run to explore and discover. Sometimes I get lost. And sometimes I take a detour (which which turns out to be more like a metaphor for life than you might think)

I’ve been exploring my new neighborhood on foot. While running. As I do.

Before I carried my iPhone everywhere, running a spontaneous route presented a challenge for me. Because I was likely to get lost. Very likely. But now I’ve got a handy map, right in the palm of my hand.

Sometimes I consult it. Sometimes I don’t. (And then sometimes I totally misread the damn thing, but that’s a conversation for another time). Right now, I’m in a non-consulting phase–because I’m learning to navigate, and sightseeing, and meeting folks… you know, just getting the lay of the land.

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How I feel about running (and living) in East Atlanta.

Today, I ran up to a fork in the road, hesitated for a minute, then went straight ahead. But I immediately knew I’d chosen wrong, that straight ahead wasn’t the way I wanted to be going at all. So, I u-turned & reversed course. I ran through a lovely part of the neighborhood, quiet with lots of trees. And–miracle of miracles–I knew exactly where I was the whole time. (We’d considered buying a house in this part of East Atlanta and had driven through this neighborhood at least half a dozen times (likely more) in our deliberations.)

I came out of the neighborhood exactly where I expected to (if this doesn’t seem like a revelation, then you must not know me IRL). But what I didn’t expect is how far off the original road (the one where I’d decided not to run straight ahead) I’d actually be. It was further than I’d thought, and the whole right-at-the-fork-instead-of-straight detour added over a mile to my run.

That’s the thing about detours–they take you off your planned track. Sometimes you’re better for it–better run, better marriage, better life. And sometimes, you just don’t realize how far from your original route the detour (that seemed so small) will take you. Or how long it will take you to get back to where you want to be.

My life has excelled at detours. I’m practically valedictorian of detours. But, when life tosses me a detour, there’s really no choice involved. I just have to take the path, look for new things to appreciate along the way, and learn the lessons life’s about to hurtle at me.

But when I get to choose my path, I’m a deliberator. Because I want to know that the detour is worth the extra mile, the unexpected hills, all the challenges of an unfamiliar terrain. I like the life path I’m on. And I respect the shifts that even small choices can bring in my life. So, in the face of a detour, I try like hell to get quiet enough to hear my. inner voice (God… the Universe… whatever) guiding me. And Good LORD am I a talker, so listening is a cultivated skill. But still, I’m learning that the more I listen, the more I know.

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There’s no rule against being cool in my Run ATL shades WHILE I listen. 

Parenting is Hard AF

This beautiful, little human is trying to kill me. I mean, not with anything as overt as knives and such. But with eye rolls and sighs, ingratitude and accusations. And if you tell me it will only get worse as she gets older, I will jump through this screen and kick your ass. 

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This beautiful, little human is trying to kill me. I mean, not with anything as overt as knives and such. But with eye rolls and sighs, ingratitude and accusations. And if you tell me it will only get worse as she gets older, I will jump through this screen and kick your ass.

This weekend unfolded in amazing family time and sullen attitudes, in turn. By the time we inched our way toward bedtime last night, I was done. Done being artfully insulted, accused of unfairness, and in general not appreciated. Also, done with a 7 year old acting like I couldn’t possibly, ever know as much as she does.

It’s exhausting as hell, this mothering thing. Trying to act magnanimous, when my feelings are hurt and I just want to cry. Feeling thwarted at every turn. Wondering if, perhaps, I’m a terrific failure at parenting after all.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to spend more structured, thoughtful time with Jane, and I’ve been turning over questions of spiritual principles and practices, so on our epic tour of bookstores in Atlanta, I picked out a Buddhist book of bedtime stories that we could read together. If you’re a parent, you probably know where this is going. Because there is a direct correlation between how much a parent wants something to work (to be special or really to matter in any significant way) and how much the child DOES NOT WANT ANY PART OF IT.

As she was headed to bed, I told her I’d like to read her a story.

So far, so good.

Then she saw me turn a few pages. “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO START AT THE BEGINNING,” she instructed, haughtily.

Ahem.

I kept my shit together pretty well. “Yes, usually, But you’re going to have to trust that I know how to read this book.” I swear, I was speaking in melodic tones while trying not to lose my mind.

“Now, close your eyes. And take a…”

“I DON’T WANT TO CLOSE MY EYES.”

“Jane. For real, dude. Just chill. You’re going to like this. It’s like when you meditate…”

“I DON’T MEDITATE.”

Now, I needed to take deep breaths. “OKAY. But you do yoga. So it’s like that. Now, point your toes down, then up…”

“How long do I have to DO THIS. JUST READ ME A STORY.”

I closed the book, said good night, and walked out of her room. I did not yell (on the outside). I did not make her responsible for my emotions. But my feelings were hurt, for sure. And I was frustrated as hell by her general crappiness and her snotty attitude.

The irony: I got the book so she could learn to manage her emotions when she doesn’t get her way. Or when things don’t go 100% as expected. (I guess we could all use some instruction on that realm). Her go-to lately is just to spin wildly out of control. Not cool. Not cool at all.

I mean, at least she showed me that I wasn’t WRONG about her needing a way to create some balance in her inner world.

Then, this morning, after I’d worked pretty damn hard to shake off the night before, I asked her if she’d like a hug. “Nah,” she said, walking away and tossing her hair over her shoulder.

My 7 year old blew me off.

I spent the whole ride to school chanting (in my head, mostly): She is not responsible for my emotions. She is not responsible for my emotions.

But, GOD, I felt like she stabbed a tiny knife in my heart and the wound might take an eternity to heal. I’m not sure why it smarted so much. I know she’s just trying to prove that she doesn’t need me all the time. She’s separating from me in ways that are normal and age-apporpriate. But, I guess lately I’ve just felt like she doesn’t respect me. And that is where I feel like I’ve gone horribly wrong. Because I deserve respect, for no other reason than that I am a human sharing this world with her. And somehow she’s come to believe that respecting me is an optional endeavor.

None of this is a plea for affirmation or sympathy. I share a lot of the joyous moments in parenthood. And I focus on redemption a lot–because so many of the beautiful parts of life revolve around that them. But this is a real, honest assessment that parenting is hard as fuck. It’s brutal and exhausting. And sometimes, it just feels soul-sucking.

And that’s why Facebook invented the Memories feature. So, when I’m contemplating moving into a yurt in the middle of the Montana wilderness just to get away from my ungrateful, disrespectful offspring, I can be taken completely unawares by a picture of her when she was just two years old and thought I hung the moon. Then I can remember that, despite what a little shit she’s been, I love her more than anything else in this world.

And then I can saddle up for another day.

Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)

I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be.

Virgo – Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it. Thoughts, people, potions, food… get rid of what you’ve had your fill of. Even if it still smells good.                  —@leahtrox

Ooof.

Alright, truth time: I’m struggling hella hard with Christianity right now. Not in a theological sense. Theological stuff fascinates me but doesn’t shake me. No, I’m struggling with the Christian church. It’s a struggle that found its genesis in 1994, when I realized I was queer, and hasn’t let up much since.

So, what does a girl who was raised in the church, who is a big fan of Jesus but feels a bit skeeved by most of the folks who follow him, do? At various points in my journey, I’ve been able to jump whole-heartedly into the church vibe. But now, even with a church I love and admire—that really lives into social justice and mercy, that IS what I believe Jesus wanted his followers to be—I am struggling to fit.

And I’m just not sure I should any more.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the spriritual not religious folks. But that’s a more accurate descriptor of my current state of being. I’m in recovery, which I talk openly about (because openness saves lives when it comes to addiction). I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be. It feels like work. But good, honest work. Like meditation. It’s all kinds of hard. But it’s worth it. Managing a spiritual program of recovery iswork. And it’s work I’ve been doing all along (I wouldn’t be sober without it). But now it feels like work I need to do in community to push myself to do better & dig deeper.

And I’m not saying folks aren’t doing that at church (especially at my church, because I KNOW they are). It just isnt’ resonating with me in this place I’m in right now.

So, what’s my hang up? Why don’t I just step back quietly from the whole church business and be done with it? Why am I even still pondering this? Because of my kid.

It’s always been important to me to raise Jane in the church. I want her to have an unshakable foundation—an understanding that God made her, adores her, seeks communion with her without condition. I’ve always felt like, even at my lowest, my belief—deep down—that I was loved by God saved me. Doesn’t she deserve to have that touchstone?

Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it.

But here’s some deeper truth: I didn’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship with my Higher Power until I got sober. Church didn’t teach me about God in the way that shapes my life now. AA did.

It’s so complicated, this question of how not only to impart something I hold so sacred to my child but also to find my own place of ease. Everything about parenting is complicated & joyful simultaneously… that’s the mystery & magic of it all.

I’d love to hear your (complicated) thoughts on spirituality & religious tradition and how you share that weighty and sacred stuff with your kids. But no hellfire & brimstone bullshit. I grew up with it & have had my fill. Just light & love welcome here.

 

Photo Cred: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash