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How to Party Like A Pro This Holiday Season

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It’s that time of the year again when truckloads of invitations get dumped on the doorstep and you’re forced to ditch your Juicy sweats for spandex and a pair of sparkly shoes. Following are my tried and true tips to make this holiday season the most festive ever, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood or spend a lot of time in the garage whittling Star Wars figurines.

There are so many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to begin. Image via blogspot.com.

1. When choosing which party to attend on any given night, steer clear of the District Attorney’s house. Nobody wants to hear that you lit it up with the county D.A., and by nobody I mean anyone who’s ever been the subject of a body cavity search or watched an episode of Breaking Bad. Partying with any law enforcement officer will make your friends feel sick and squeamish, especially the ones who accidentally forgot to pay child support for the last six years.

What do we have in here? Image via digitaljournal.com

2. Always take a posse to a holiday party, especially when the invitation has an ice luge on the cover. Generally speaking, people with enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures don’t have a lot of friends because they’re too busy making enough money to blow on things like disposable sculptures. You’ll be doing the host a favor by bringing thrill seeking add-ons who’ll K.O. all the Finlandia in the house and yell “Hit that dawg!” at the top of their lungs every five minutes.

Some of us have happier holidays than others. Image via blogspot.com

3. Everyone has a creepy uncle who doesn’t get out of the house much because he’s too busy grooming his stuffed hamster collection. To cut back on those noxious fumes coming from the basement, send him over to the D.A.’s party with your regrets. By doing so, you’ll simultaneously perform a random act of kindness and keep your family’s name off the police scanner in 2014. It might be nice to tape a note on his back with his iPhone passcode just in case he gets lost or someone wants to do a random screenshot search.

That’s not my uncle. Image via kindofcreepy.com

4. When it’s time to carb load, skip the prime rib station and head straight to the host’s pantry. That’s where you’ll find the good stuff, like Funions, and the adult toys Santa plans to put in a secret stocking the kids have already found, taken pictures of, and Snapchatted around the entire middle school with the tag “My parents know how to party!”.

Guess what? The pic you just took on Snapchat is gonna be around a lot longer than 10 seconds. Image via businessinsider.com

5. It’s important to hydrate at holiday social events because the secret to getting asked back next year is to look really hot. To give your skin a soft, dewy glow, try supplementing Jager Bombs with a Michelob Ultra every now and again.  A 5:1 ratio is usually the perfect mix for me, but you might want to go something like 7:1 on account of all that excess hair.

On second thought, just stick with tequila. Image via clinicaladvisor.com

6. Everyone loves a party guest who commandeers the Kenny Loggins Christmas station and slips in a custom-made playlist, especially if the self-proclaimed mix master is wearing a lot of make-up and no pants.

Who says Miley Cyrus doesn’t make good choices? Image via media2.onsugar.com

7. When the party’s winding down and it’s time to go home? Everyone loves unexpected overnight guests, especially the ones who pass out on the ice luge. To make yourself a little more inconspicuous and give your host a holiday surprise in the morning, try crawling into the dog kennel. It’s cozy, padded, and if you happen to throw up a little while you’re in there? You and my creepy uncle will be the only ones who know.

Surprise! Image via theblaze.com

Happy Holidays from everyone at the Gemini Girl in a Random World staff, which is pretty much just me and my mom.

This is a Simple Story About Love

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All a mother wants, above and beyond anything else in life, is for her child to be happy. It’s a subliminal inclination fueled by emotion, like the echo of a throb…a primal instinct driven by that first, curious flutter in the womb.

And it never goes away.

My grandmother is no different from any other mother in this respect, even though her youngest was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Unable to breathe, my Aunt Micki was rushed to a nurse instead of Grandmother’s open arms while doctors worked to change Micki’s color from a pallid shade of blue to something that looked a little more like life.

Micki survived only to suffer her first seizure when she was nine months old. It was the earliest of many signs that something about her seemed different. Abnormal. Uncommon. Not right.

As months turned into years, “different” transitioned to “retarded,” a term loaded with so much meaning that it overflowed, creating a non-navigable chasm between Micki and other kids her age. Words can be transformative in both good ways and bad, and “retarded” became a life-size label that would shade just about everything she did, starting with the length of the bus she boarded for school.

Both Grandmother and Micki learned to move under a cloak of filtered light that could only throw shadows on the stolen glances and downcast eyes of the world at large. Yet in those everyday moments where growth can’t really be measured, the bond between mother and daughter grew.

Given enough time, life will teach you that the only thing you can count on is change. Yet Micki’s role never has. She is and always will be my grandmother’s constant companion. Not her retarded companion, just a loving daughter and friend.

When my mom left home for college, Micki stayed. When my uncle took the same path seven years later, Micki stayed. When my grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, Micki stayed.

We don’t use the word “retarded” anymore, or at least, we don’t admit it when we do. From my grandmother’s perspective, that word has always misrepresented her youngest child. If you ask, she’ll say Micki came into the world just the way she was supposed to be.

Today, at almost ninety-three, the time-honored light in Grandmother’s eyes is fading. She’s more feeble now than even a few years ago, and bones that used to bend under the weight of life now break. Yet she pauses and lingers longer than most because her remaining purpose sits beside her, quietly holding her hand. Theirs is silent proof that under the right conditions, the narrative of a love story can last forever.

My grandmother will tell you that she’s here today because of youngest child. Not her abnormal, uncommon, retarded child, but her sweet, loving, beautiful daughter.

She’s not a surgeon, or a star, or even that girl from high school you wish you still knew. Yet if you ask Micki if she’s happy, she’ll nod her head and reply, “Yes. Yes I am.”

You don’t have to ask Grandmother the same question. The answer is obvious in the way she looks at her daughter, without bias or pity or doubt. To a mother, a child is simply a child and love is just love. Micki is her life’s greatest gift. We should all be so lucky.

On October 5, 2010, President Obama signed legislation requiring the federal government to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of government. This measure, known as Rosa’s Law, strips the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education, and labor policy. According to the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world’s population — or 785 million people — has a significant physical or mental disability. 

For anyone accustomed to my attempts at more humorous, light-hearted posts, I’ll be back next week to talk about either what I found in my neighbor’s trash, or the time I spent in my version of prison, or both. These topics aren’t remotely related, but probably should be.

What Do You Do When Your Child Disappears?

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Last Friday, my eight year-old daughter, Essa, stayed home from school with a bad case of everyone-else-in-my-class-is-sick-so-I-wanna-be-sick-too-itis.

As a mother, I’ve experienced these strange illnesses before. My son, Taylor, once had I-can’t-go-to-school-because-I-sprained-my-ankle-and-halfway-through-my-day-off-started-limping-on-the-wrong-foot syndrome, and my other daughter, Grace, recently struggled with I-didn’t-get-my-book-report-finished-therefore-I’ll-cry-until-my-face-turns-an-unnatural-shade-of-puke-so-I-can-stay-home-and-finish-it disorder.

Needless to say, I’m usually unsympathetic to the sudden onset of these strange and often fleeting maladies, but last week, when Essa came down the stairs looking like this, I caved.

Essa’s hair is unusually dark in this picture thanks to highlights expertly applied by the Sharpie she’s not supposed to have in her room. That application, coupled with a furrowed brow, deeply pained eyes, and hair sticking out in so many directions she must have styled it herself, makes for a pretty clean case.

Essa’s hair is unusually dark in this picture thanks to highlights expertly applied by the Sharpie she’s not supposed to have in her room. That application, coupled with a furrowed brow, deeply pained eyes, and hair sticking out in so many directions she must have styled it herself, makes for a pretty clean case.

Knowing Essa wasn’t that sick (she had a sinus infection), I asked her to take our dog, Wrigley, to the bathroom while I shuffled Grace into the car for the four-minute drive to school. Completely unhurried and in zero danger of receiving a dreaded tardy slip, I pulled out of the garage and left Essa behind with Wrigley, talking to a neighbor who lives up the street.

This is where I left my daughter.

This is where I left my daughter.

This part bears repeating, so I will. I intentionally, without thought or concern, drove off without my eight year-old daughter.

When I got home, Essa was gone.

When you leave your child alone and assume that upon returning she’ll be at the kitchen table coloring, in the bathroom, or en route to her room in search of a favorite book only to find she isn’t anywhere she’s supposed to be? The sound of her absence is deafening.

My first thought was that Wrigley had gotten loose, so I immediately ran to the back yard and up into the scrub oak calling their names. No luck. I then jumped into my car and drove the area where we often walk our dog. Twice. Still no Essa. I came back home and searched the house, yard and scrub oak again. Nothing. I next called a monitoring company (when you adopt a dog, the shelter often puts a microchip in him so that he can be returned if he’s lost), with the hope that Wrigley’s chip could be tracked. It couldn’t. Still alone, battling the roaring silence in my house, and scared out of my mind, I started to cry, and in that state of panic, called our neighborhood security. Our security officers, in turn, contacted the county Sheriff, and within five minutes, three security vehicles and two patrol cars screeched to a halt in front of my house.

That's Essa and me in front of the scrub oak where I was trying to find her...obviously on a different day.

That’s Essa and me in front of the scrub oak where I was trying to find her…obviously on a different day.

In almost thirteen years as a mother, I’d never, not even for a second, lost a child.

For me, the most poignant moment in that endless vacuum of time was pulling Essa’s child identity card from my wallet to give to the police officer; the one you think you’ll never use. She’s wearing her favorite softie bunny t-shirt, a pair of puppy earrings that she begged me to let her clip on for her school picture, and a huge grin. My baby was right in front of me, only she wasn’t. It was just a picture of her smiling at the world from the confines of a one-dimensional, laminated card, surrounded by information only meant to be used under the worst possible circumstances.

One officer took the card and left, and I covered my face and sobbed…a release of emotion so guttural and deep that it felt like the entire world had shifted beneath me, shaping itself into a self-created prison I had never, in my darkest nightmares, expected to know.

As I turned toward the house, I saw a little girl and her dog walking down the street in my peripheral view. My little girl and my dog. The confluence of emotions I felt in that moment is almost impossible to describe. Love. Relief. Incredulity. Happiness. Disbelief. Thankfulness. Wonder. I could use a million different descriptors and never get it right.

As she approached, I saw that Essa wasn’t alone. She was with the neighbor I’d left her talking to when I took Grace to school. That neighbor, who’s name I don’t know, who’s house is somewhere up the street, who I’ve exchanged small talk with when I pass her walking our dogs but who’s never been invited into my family’s life, and who appears to be my age (which is to say, not young), thought it was O.K. to take my daughter for a 45-minute walk without my permission.

Even more disturbing to me however, was that Essa thought it was O.K. too.

And that’s why I’m telling this story.

There are at least three important emotions I left out above in trying to describe how I felt when Essa came home. Anger, embarrassment, and shame.

I was embarrassed to call the police when I couldn’t find my daughter.

I was ashamed to admit I’d left her alone.

I was angry with the woman who took her for a walk without my permission.

I was angry with Essa for going.

But most of all, a thousand times over, on top of my conscience, through my heart and back? I was angry with myself. I’m a mother. My primary job is protect my children. My secondary one is to teach them. I did neither in this case.

Somehow, between raising three kids, skirting in and out of once strictly bound parameters that have loosened with time, brushing hair and trimming nails, packing healthy lunches and hiding Halloween candy, I neglected to teach Essa the many shapes a stranger can take, and that just because you recognize someone doesn’t mean you can walk away with them. To her, the lady she left our house with was a nice person with a dog who she could trust. To me? That lady was, and still is, a stranger.

How could I have allowed such a huge disconnect between the two?

Once Essa was safely inside, a compassionate police officer explained that she falls within an age range of children who have a difficult time determining who a stranger really is. We all tell our children the classic “Stranger Danger” stories, often revolving around a creepy man at the mall who attempts to lure them into his car with candy. But what about an adult who doesn’t fit that description at all? What about a person that an eight year-old girl, who still believes in Santa and considers her favorite stuffed animals to be among some of her besties, might see as a friend just because she seems nice?

When it comes to dealing with adults, I’ve always taught my children to be kind, polite, and to defer to authority. I’ve never told them to pull back, be suspicious, say no, or walk away. It’s a gray area, but it’s one that she, and every child, should better understand.

Last Friday, I set off a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the payment of a small price for lessons my entire family has now learned. You only have to turn on the news to see that I was lucky.

I’d like to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the officers who responded to my call. Every person who came to help me find Essa acted professionally, compassionately, delicately, and diligently. It’s a day I’ll never forget, and I will remain forever grateful to everyone who assisted and supported our family.

A Strange Tale of NyQuil, Rodents, and Random Christmas Lessons.

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Let me start by inserting a spoiler alert. I wrote this after shotgunning about a gallon of NyQuil.

Yesterday I was bragging to my husband, Scot (who’s fighting off a tiny cold and is bedridden for the foreseeable future…likely until America pole vaults off the fiscal cliff) that due to my impervious genetic make-up, I haven’t been sick for two or three years.

Today I’m tired, achy, sore, and my voice has dropped a couple of octaves (which is actually kind of cool in a Darth Vader-like way when I yell “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” at my kids), I’m annoyed by the presence of a mouse we’re rodent-sitting for my daughter’s 3rd grade class during winter break, and my teeth hurt.

Clearly, I’m sick, which brings me to Christmas Lesson #1: Don’t bring strange animals into your home during the holidays. Or ever. 

Not cute. Image via preparednesspro.com.

I’m sure, due to my clinically proven, bionic DNA, that I’m not sick in the traditional fa-la-la-la-la kind of way, but have actually contracted Hantavirus from the vermin presently residing in a cage in the hall, and must immediately enter a self-constructed isolation chamber to keep my germs from spreading. That my dwelling will contain a posh heavenly bed overnight air-shipped from the W Hotel, soundproofed walls meant to muffle the screams of my children as they beat each other due to lack of parental supervision (remember, Scot’s sick too), and the entire Twilight series on DVD is really none of your business.

As I wait for someone to help me construct my self-constructed parallel wellness universe, I decide to crawl into my daughter’s bed (because as Alpha Mom it’s really all about my health after all, plus Scot’s in ours with his baby cold) and sleep. Due to my spiking fever, I also sweat, a lot, and dream not about sugar plums fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care, but mimes….evil clown-like ones walking naked around my house with 80s-style boom boxes on their shoulders blaring Kajagoogoo.

Christmas Lesson #2: Read all warning labels before self-medicating and resist the urge to download any bad 80s music while ignoring the aforementioned warning labels.

Don’t bring this dish to your next office holiday party. Image via addictiontreatmentmagazine.com.

After about an hour of tossing, turning, and stalking that cute guy in the A-Ha video, I wake up to find a plate of cold spaghetti, fourteen low-salt Ritz crackers, and a glass of something that looks suspiciously like Michelob Ultra by my daughter’s bed. If nothing else, my kids know that alcohol makes mommy a better person, which could technically be lesson #3, but that would be pathetic.

In a traditional blog post, this is where I tell you how amazing my children are, imply or directly state that they’re more intelligent than yours due to my superior parenting skills, and incidentally, that each just won the World Series Championship of their respective sports (I don’t disclose that they competed in the loser’s bracket and rode the bench the entire season).

I know my kids better than that though, and as you’ve probably figured out, my fever is at its peak, the NyQuil is coursing through my veins (I can’t feel my cheekbones), and there’s nothing normal about what I’m sharing.

Not to be fooled by my children’s faux-sympathy, I realize that in my over-the-counter-drug-induced fog, I promised them they could open presents sent from their grandparents in Kentucky after lunch, because I’m not ashamed to buy time at someone else’s expense when I need to sleep. And I need to sleep. Desperately. But they need me to eat.

Christmas lesson #3: If your children want any big ticket items this holiday season, pawn them off on your out of town parents who feel like it’s somehow their fault that you live so far away.

Our family is A-OK with buying love.

Our family is A-OK with buying love.

And now here I sit, semi-alert on the sofa and banging out this post that may or may not be based on actual events. The kids are skillfully playing the video games I asked their grandparents to send, gifts I requested not to improve their vocabulary or bionicize their IQs, but to buy me the much needed time to do nothing that every parent should have during the holiday season, and really, all year long.

I’m getting sleepy again, so that’s it for my Christmas Tale. It doesn’t make any sense, yet here I am, happily typing away as everything below my kneecaps goes numb. If you don’t like it, feel free to say so. I’ve developed a thick skin (Literally. It’s all rubbery and translucent due to my Hantavirus.). Plus everything feels all warm and fuzzy and blurry right now, which is awesome. I just love the good tidings of comfort and joy I feel when I chug cough syrup, our family spends quality time together.

If you do like my story, consider gathering your loved ones around the fire tonight and passing it on. Maybe it will become one of your family’s most beloved holiday tales, a tradition cherished and requested over and over, so much so that I’ll be forced to self-publish and sell millions of copies so you can read it to them for years to come and I can actually build my aforementioned isolation chamber. In Hawaii.

Truth be told, NyQuil is expensive, and at the rate I’m going, and I could use the cash.

Today marks my one year anniversary on WordPress. This is a slightly edited version of my first post. At the time, only my mom and  some lady I accosted in the grocery store parking lot read it. Thank you to anyone and everyone who’s taken the time to stop by and read my work. Your support is the best Christmas gift ever, even better than a case of NyQuil.

How Do You Move Forward When You’re Grinding All Your Gears?

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As humans, we’re constantly in motion. But motion and movement are two very different things. Just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going anywhere.

Trust me on this, I know.

If I could catch a ride with Richard Branson on his uber-expensive Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, I’d easily be able to assess the difference between the two. But first I’d hit him up for drink. Specifically? A glass of 1907 Heidsieck. At $275,000 a bottle, it would help defray my ticket price while momentarily absolving me of the guilt associated with blowing the kids’ college tuition just to prove a point. BOGO at its highest and best use.

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

The second thing I’d do is settle in to check out the real estate, because isn’t leveraging my children’s future to see the world from a different point of view all about perspective? I imagine myself staring out the window at an earth below that looks less and less like the picture we all try to paint on a daily basis. Not so much a three-dimensional place anymore, but from way up above? A ginormous chessboard marked with clearly defined grids, gateways, and boundaries, as tiny balls of energy collide, advance, deflect, promote, dodge, gather, seek and recede in an endless effort to check the king.

Image via portwallpaper.com

Image via portwallpaper.com

Fascinated with the sparkly surface patterns of intricate motion that everyone on earth longs to be, and all happy-tingly-woozy from my six-figure, speed of sound buzz, I’d almost miss what I didn’t know I flew so high to see. Something small and seemingly insignificant situated inside the massive advance of energy that everyone else on board paid a lifetime of 401K savings to witness.

I’m talking about inert matter. Those pinpricks of light that mimic motion, but whose movement is an optical illusion: running in circles, dancing in place, and bumping up against imaginary walls. As everyone else on board focuses on the obvious, I’d be able to drill down a little deeper. But only because I’ve been there. Stuck. In motion, but not really going anywhere.

Image via trojantimes.org

Image via trojantimes.org

Looking back at my adult life, it’s easy to categorize it into a series of phases.

Phase 1/1980s: The Sussana Hoffs era of Big Hair and Big Dreams.

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Phase 2/1990s: The Yves Saint Laurent era of Big Black Suit and Big Career.

Don't look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Don’t look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Phase 3/2000s: The Barbara Billingsley era of Big Belly and Big Bills.

That’s not me. OK it is. On the verge of birthing an alien.

I’ve always considered myself fairly stealth, able to move seamlessly in and out of various roles at-will to the beat of a metronome perfectly synchronized to my tune. But about three years ago, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, everything changed. For someone who’s always been confident enough to chart her own course, I suddenly found myself drifting. I was lost and knee-deep in the weeds without a compass, while a storm of my own design grew larger than it appeared in my peripheral view.

Somewhere between my career and the kids, buried in a pile of laundry or possibly lurking inside a box in the basement that I hadn’t opened for years, I lost my perspective and appreciation for the life I’d so carefully built. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt like I simply woke up one day yearning to be anywhere and anyone but who I was. Confused, I couldn’t seem to recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror when I washed my face every night.

No matter how enlightened I become, I will always hate matching socks.

It’s easy to get lost in a pile of socks.

I was that person who, although constantly in motion, wasn’t actually moving. Busy with my responsibilities as a parent and a wife, I had somehow forgotten about the inner workings that support the common denominator between the two, and then the kids went off to school, and could tie their own shoes, and make sound decisions without being told how, and I realized that I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim. Even in the middle of paradise, isolation is lonely, and days on end of the most beautiful sunset somehow lose their color. Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.

Telluride, CO August 2011

When you’re stuck, you’re forced to stop. You don’t have a choice. And then when you’re ready to move forward, you have to look around and figure out where you want to go next rather than simply allowing the tide to sweep you along. That initial inertia and subsequent plotting of a new path has great value, even though in the moment it feels miserable, like treading water in quicksand.

One of the side effects of getting lost is the unexpected places you get to visit on your way to a new destination. Like for me? Writing. This blog is a direct result of a yearlong, step-by-step, rocky hike on a circuitous path. And I’m still going. I’m a constant work in progress, but I’m now comfortable with my ever-changing state of being because I’m doing the work to figure out where I want to end up. Plus I reserve the right to change my mind, which is a great back-up plan when all else fails.

I believe that in life, we all get stuck at some point. Whether it’s due to things like divorce, disease, death, or distraction, almost everyone loses their way. Sometimes we have to move backwards to go forward, or hit a bottom so hard that the force of impact acts like a catapult up to the top, but the a-ha realization at the end, when lessons are learned and intersecting lines actually connect, is priceless. It isn’t easy, but almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss. So what about you? Are you simply in motion or are you actually moving? It’s a question worth asking, even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear.

Taking the road less traveled and finding my way.

I Think I’m Smarter Than You

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No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.

I Am Not A Farmer (Part I)

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After creating two posts a week since the inception of this blog, I’ve written nothing for the last three. Zero. Nada. Zilch. I’ve been on vacation mode, and I can’t bring myself to do anything that doesn’t involve self-tanning, a cocktail, and my DVR.

For the Type A, sometimes over-achieving, often napping Gemini that I am, this form of being is both thrilling and mortifying, but mostly mortifying since it’s 2:23 a.m. and I’m in a pseudo-manic state when I should be asleep.

Self Portrait taken April 18, 2012 at 2:45 a.m. Image via insanity.

How bloggers like Sweet Mother and A Clown On Fire manage to post brilliant material every day is beyond me. I think they might be bionic, but don’t tell them I said so or they’ll flex their witty, razor-sharp biceps even more often than now, forcing me onto the floor and into Jane Fonda donkey kick mode in a lame attempt to keep up.

Image via filmbug.com

When it comes to blogging, I’ve been in a bit of a stupor lately. Call it writer’s block, spring fever, or general disdain, but anything I’ve considered producing comes out in a blah, blah, blekity blah kind of way in my head. So instead of turning the bleck into something anyone might care to read, I rub on some Jergens Revitalizing Glow Daily Moisturizer, mix a fairly strong Maker’s Mark and ginger ale, flip through back episodes of Jersey Shore, and cry.

Image via nydailynews.com

But all of this, and by this I mean the writing void I’ve existed in for the past few weeks, is about to change because tomorrow I’m headed to The Farm. No, not that farm where they siphon off every last peso you’ve ever earned, commandeer all sharp objects including your mind, and pad you up in a nice white suit for your stay.

I’m gonna visit my seventy year-old dad’s fancy, new, working farm (sort of, whatever that means) in Varnville, SC…population 2,032.

The great thing about this trip is that I’m not a farmer. Not even close. Neither is my dad, which makes the whole thing doubly exciting.

That's not me. Image via wikipedia.com

Even better? I’m going sans-kids, although anyone who has children understands that it’s taken me approximately seventeen days to set up a three-day trip. Yes, I’ve invested 408 hours to get away for 72, which is voodoo math, but after a few drinks, who’s really counting? I’ve set up carpools, babysitters, video surveillance cameras and booby traps to ensure that my offspring get safely from Point A to Point B while I’m gone and don’t kill each other in the process, or eat too many leftover peeps from Easter and orbit the house in Matrix-like fight mode as they…kill each other in the process.

Dead Peeps. Image via flickr.com.

And last? There’s absolutely nothing to do. Check out Varnville on Google Earth. There isn’t anything there. Except my dad’s farm. And a pack of wild dogs. And some dude in a squirrel hat riding up and down the wrong side of the road on an electric scooter. O.K. I made those last two things up, but still.

So I’m going to Varnville to tap my creativity again and get out from under the spell of this evil-brain-witch-slacker-zombie who’s taken over my body. Because I miss writing. And I miss you. And I would like to be asleep right now. So maybe we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya together. Or not. But either way I’m for sure finding that dude on the scooter and catching a ride. I don’t know where we’ll end up, but the real fun is in the journey anyway, right?

To The Gentle Giant From A Mom Who Sometimes Gets It Wrong

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I have an unsuspecting guest blogger today.  It’s my eleven year-old son, Taylor, or as I like to call him, the Gentle Giant.  Gentle because he was born with a heart much more complex and intricate than most, and giant because, well, he’s really, really tall.

Taylor has always been sensitive to the ways of the world…more synchronized to the tune of his own feelings and the vibrations and chords of those around him than anyone I know.  Even though our parts come from the same place, they’re constructed in an entirely different way.  What seems like a glancing blow to me hits him directly; a sucker punch to the gut with a sting that lingers and burns.

At first and for a long time, I wanted to change my son.  Make him tougher, more resilient, and in my mind’s eye, strong.  No caring parent wants a child to hurt.

When he was a little boy, all I could see through my one-dimensional, cracked crystal ball were children teasing him.  I imagined him crying while I tried to clean up the tiny slivers of his psyche, unable to reconnect them in a way that would cause less pain.  With a vascular organ as transparent as his, I was afraid he’d bleed in ways that would require emotional surgery, a method of repair I was too ill-equipped to attempt.

Over the years, some of my fears have come to light.  He’s mourned things I don’t understand, and lamented situations that wouldn’t cause me a second thought.  And yes, he’s had his feelings bruised by others who are built of vital pieces that are shaped a little differently than his.  I’m embarrassed to admit that one of those “others” unintentionally includes me.

But he’s also surprised me in ways I could have never predicted.   As a kid on the cusp of tweendom, he now feels compelled to hide his free-flowing tears, but he’s always the first to crack a joke.  Because his feelings run like fissures through the ground, he’ll defend anyone being bullied, unconditionally and without a second thought.  I’ve seen him jump to an unknown child’s defense and am amazed by his courage.  Even for the right reasons, I didn’t have the self-confidence at his age to make waves or challenge the status quo.

It took me awhile to understand that the element of my son’s personality I wanted to alter is the exact one that makes him so beautifully unique.  I imagine that the children who cry easily become the teenagers who feel deeply and the adults who have the potential to heal the world.

With the best of intentions we often damage our children.  In our haste to mold them into the people we wish we were, we sometimes hurt rather than help.  Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I see now that by trying to make my son stronger, I actually injured parts I intended to support.  He had strengths all along that I failed to recognize, and it was never Taylor who needed to change.  It was me.

There is absolutely no genetic precedent in either my husband’s or my family for a child who is predicted to grow to be about 6’5”.  The only way to explain his size is that it takes a large body to hold such a huge heart.  His height is a defense mechanism in a way, a physical vessel to guard against any emotions that penetrate the protective cover, and cradle something too valuable to lose.

I’m not always proud of myself, but I am unconditionally and forever proud of my son.

Tree by Taylor Chadwick

Still. Still as a rock.

High above all others.

Lonely, alone.

Freezing as the temperature drops.

Reaching out for something to hold onto.

But nothing is there.

The arms stretch out further, and that means there is still something to hold onto.

Something to fight for.

Something to believe in.

Something to live for.

The sun is melting all the snow.

Warming it.

There is always hope.

 

Image from Flickr