Category Archives: Family

Just Do It

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“You’re a beast!” “ROCK STAR!” “Congrats! You’re my hero!!”

My friends and family have been pretty free and easy with the pats on the back and the “way to go’s” since yesterday.  I will admit to being pretty proud of myself.  I ran my first half marathon yesterday and it was hot and hilly.  I set a goal for myself and I met it in spite of the crummy and unexpected conditions.

But I don’t feel like a hero because I ran 13.1 miles.  It is a half marathon, after all. I am only half crazy, no 26.2 for this girl (yet.)

You know when I did feel pretty spectacular? I had q-tips between my teeth and my cheeks and I was grinning ear to ear at the race expo on Friday afternoon.

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It turns out I really do love swabbing.

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In less than a minute of my day I donated some tissue and consented to be entered in to a worldwide registry of bone marrow donors.  The woman behind the table said “Are you interested in registering with Delete Blood Cancer?” and I said “Sure.” It was that easy.

I came home that evening and looked it up.  What did it really mean?  It means that someone somewhere with a blood cancer might not be a good match for any of the 9.5 million existing donors.  They might still be waiting for a donor that matches.  It might be me.  Or you.

There is a 1 in 500 chance that I will end up donating bone marrow or stem cells to a person with blood cancer.  You might think, oh wow, with odds like that why bother?  Well, that’s why.  With odds like that  – Delete Blood Cancer and Be the Match and organizations like these need as many people to register as possible.

As soon as I got a driver’s license I checked the Organ Donor box. If I have a chance to help someone after I am gone than by all means, I want to.  I have donated blood numerous times and will continue to do so.  But I had no idea until this past Friday that I could register to donate bone marrow or stem cells to a blood cancer patient.

I read all of the material and it scares me a little.  I don’t like hospitals.  Anesthesia freaks me out.  I am not wild about needles and being hooked up to a machine that is draining me of anything for more than a few minutes is a little worrisome. The process of donating if you match a patient is fairly unpleasant and would leave me feeling less than up to par for a few days.  But I imagine someone with leukemia or lymphoma or myeloma probably isn’t wild about hospitals or needles, either. And I’d be willing to guess that cancer probably leaves you feeling pretty crummy.

I really wanted to write a race recap post today.  But every time someone has asked me “How was the Raleigh Rock ‘n Roll Half?” I have wanted to answer “It sucked, it was hot and hilly but did you know that you can register to donate bone marrow without doing anything invasive?  It’s a q-tip in your mouth, that’s it!”

Two runners died during the race yesterday.  I have been thinking about their families a lot in the last 24 hours.   Life is so short. So many people that I have talked to have remarked that it is so shocking and sad that these two men passed away when they were “healthy.”  Healthy people get blood cancer every day.  And then they aren’t healthy anymore. Then they are counting on you and me to give them a fighting chance.

If you are in good health and you are between 18 and 55 you are eligible to donate bone marrow or stem cells to a patient with blood cancer.  There is a slim chance that you will be matched with a patient, true.  But there is a slimmer chance that the patient will find a match if you don’t register.  In keeping with the sporty theme – Just Do It.

 

 

Inherent Worth & Dignity

Unitarian Universalists promote seven principles.  The first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  This week I was reminded that my eight year old is a far superior Unitarian Universalist than I may ever be.  Because after she told me what happened to her on the school bus I was really struggling to see the inherent worth and dignity in one particular little girl.

She was crying when she came up to the front door so it took me a short while to get an answer.  “Did something happen at school, Em?”

“Mom, she said I am a bad person.  She said I can’t be a Girl Scout if I don’t believe in God. She said if I don’t have God in my heart than I have the devil in my heart.”

I wrapped my arms around her tightly while she caught her breath.  And the words, the words that came tumbling from her lips next made me more proud than I have perhaps ever been. “I told them that I am a Unitarian.  And that I do go to a church actually. And that my church says you can believe in whatever you want.  I am a good person.  I am.  How could that God want to punish me when I didn’t even say anything mean when they were telling me that I was a bad person?”

The part of me that wants to start talking and never stop when I don’t know what to say exactly worked hard to stay quiet.  The less I said the more she spoke and the more I realized I needed to say nothing.

“The Girl Scout pledge says God but so does the Pledge of Allegiance. You don’t have to believe in God to be an American so I don’t think you do to be a Girl Scout.”

I kept quiet.  I was waiting for the shame, for the doubt, for the “what if they are right, Mom?”

“There is only one thing that I wish was different about our church.  I wish it wasn’t in the woods.  It’s kind of hiding and if we were right next to the road more people would know about us and more people would come because I bet a lot of people actually think that it is okay to believe whatever you want and just be a good person.”

She knows.  She knows she is a good person.  And it doesn’t matter what the Girl Scouts think.  Or a kid on the bus.  Or God.  She just knows.

In the last year I have thought frequently about our first principle as it applies to others.  I think about it in the moments that I try to apply my reality to another person and I see them coming up short.  I remind myself that they are their own person, they live their own reality, they have their own inherent worth and dignity.  It never dawned on me that if you believe in your heart of hearts in your own worth, in your own dignity, if you do not have self-doubt – it is so much easier not to condemn others.

My sweet Emily June, you have taught me more in your eight years than I may ever teach you.  This can’t be your first rodeo, kid.

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Four

In February of 2010 Emily was little.  She was unabashed.  She danced in the driveway and she didn’t take long to get dressed.  She had bangs.  She liked zip-up hoodies and sunglasses and the more accessories, the better.  The Universe was all Emily’s.  She wasn’t selfish but the only life she had ever known was one that was all about her.  Today she went to a book fair at school and came home with several books for Lucy. “Because just because she is too little for school doesn’t mean she doesn’t get books, right?” 

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I don’t know exactly why I went digging through old pictures. Emily said something hilarious and followed it up with “Don’t put that on the Internet.” And I tried to remember when she became self aware.  Was it last year?  The year before? The year before that?  She has changed more in the years since Lucy was born than she did in her entire life prior.  She became something new.  She is a Big Sister now.

Maybe that is what is different.

I tell her she is still my little girl.  I tell her that she is lucky that she had me all to herself for so many years.  I tell her that I love her.  But sometimes I fear she will read through these posts someday and wonder where she is…. all this schmaltz about Lucy, what about me?

Emily June,

I am writing my story so I don’t forget.  And when you looked at me on New Year’s Eve after I took a perfectly hilarious video of you and said “Don’t put that on the Internet” it crushed me a little bit.  Not because I wanted to show the whole damn world how hilarious you are (well, maybe a little) but because I am afraid that as you get bigger and your story becomes yours to tell and I write less of it down… I will forget.  I will forget the moments, the details, perhaps, but I won’t forget the Big Stuff.  I promise.

You and I have butt heads this week. Big time.  We had the first of many screaming matches that ended with us both in tears and me saying “Listen, Em, I’m not your friend, I am your mother.  I know you are mad, and I am sorry.  If I knew a way to be your mother without making you mad I’d do it.  I am making this up as I go along, kid, and I don’t know much but I know I am supposed to be your mom first.  I can be your friend in between the cracks, but my first job is to be your mom.”  And you hugged me and you cried and you told me that it is so confusing.  You told me that you do respect me and you’re sorry that you get so mouthy but sometimes it just feels like you are with your friend when we are together.

I held you tight and I cried a little louder.  Because when you said I feel like your friend I felt like I was failing you as your mother.  But succeeding as a person.

I don’t know what I am doing exactly, Em.  You might as well know that. It is easy to teach Lucy the colors and the alphabet song. I have no idea how to teach you when it is hilarious to mock me openly and when it is disrespectful to even sort of roll your eyes.  It is confusing.  You’re right.   But I am doing the best I can.  And so far it has been good enough.

When you read all this some day and you wonder why I spilled my guts (and maybe a little of yours no matter how hard I try to protect your privacy) I hope you just ask me.  Maybe I will be able to give you an answer by then.  Because today?  Today I can’t explain why.  Writing it down makes things make more sense.  And sharing it makes it all less lonely.  Maybe you will understand that.  Weird that in this time of my life when I am never, ever, ever alone – well, it is the loneliest damn time.

I am watching you play with your sister right now.  You just looked up at me and said “Are you crying because of those old pictures? Don’t cry, Mom. I’m still little!” And you shook your tiny little butt and you smiled.

Yes.  You are.  For today.  But you are bigger than you were yesterday and you don’t show signs of slowing down.

Mom

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Dear Lucy on your 2nd Birthday

Dear Lucy,

Happy Birthday, kiddo!  Two!!  I think you had a bang up birthday.  Daddy, Emily, Papa and Gram set up a Yo Gabba Gabba explosion in the kitchen while you took a nap and you were so tickled when you woke up.  It was like you couldn’t believe that all of your buddies from Gabba Land were here for a party.  It is impossible sometimes to tell if you are saying “potty” or “party” so the day was exciting.  You ran through the house yelling “party” while I trailed after you saying “Do you have to go potty, Lu?”

20140120-083023.jpgYou’re such a happy little lady. You’re always smiling.  You are such a menace.  Somedays I think you spend all day developing your crackpot plans for destruction but you mean well.  The delight in your face as someone yells “Oh, Lucy!!!” makes cleaning it all up worthwhile for the time being. Don’t feel like you need to stay in this phase for too awful long.  I will suffer through the momentary sadness when I mention to one of your many doting grandparents “I noticed today it has been weeks since Lucy mindlessly dumped out an entire drawer full of stuff.”

You love your babies with your whole entire little self.  You are frequently walking around the house bouncing a baby on your shoulder saying “Shhh, shh, shh.”  Your babies are busy, too.  They are always napping or crying according to you.  I ask you what they are doing all of the time. I think I ask you what you are doing a lot, too, because in the last month you have taken to constantly asking us “What are you DOING?” in this tone that suggests that whatever we doing is inane.

You are not the most graceful little person.  You have a tendency to crash and burn but nothing slows you down.  If I have to be honest with you, Lucy, your head circumference is off the charts, it’s no wonder you tumble from time to time.  But you never make a peep.  You are back on your feet, onward and upward, in no time.  I hope this “nothing keeps a good woman down” attitude serves you well in your life.

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You’re not really a baby anymore.  I mean, you got a bike for your birthday, man. Babies don’t ride bikes.  But I have news for you, Lu, you will always be the baby.  It’s going to drive you totally crazy someday when I hold you extra tight or kiss you in front of your middle school.  But I promise that being the baby will pay off.  You will probably also be able to stay out ten minutes past your curfew someday because everyone knows that the youngest kid in the family has slacker rules as a teenager. And we won’t even talk about the inappropriate movies you will probably get to watch because by the time you are your sister’s age I will have been watching heart-felt animal movies for almost fifteen years and sometimes a girl just needs a break.

Lucy, I love you like crazy.  You haven’t slept through the night a single time in your two years and you still won’t take a nap without a solid twenty minutes of snuggling with your mama in the middle but you know what – I wouldn’t change a thing.  Two years later and I still bend my face down to the top of your head and inhale and think about how these days will pass faster than I can even imagine.

Happy Birthday, Lucy Quinn.  I tell you all of the time, but don’t you forget – you’re a really good baby. And try not to think too much about how I sometimes say it in the same tone of voice that I say “You’re such a good dog” to Fisher.  You two spend a lot of time together but it isn’t like I can’t tell you apart.

Love,

Mom

Lucy Quinn - Blowing your dad's mind since 2012

Lucy Quinn – Blowing your dad’s mind since January 20, 2012

 

 

 

Home for the Holidays

You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. ~Thomas Wolfe

I am the adult child of a divorce.  (Is anyone ever the adult child of something great?  People are adult children of alcoholics and divorce and of narcissists according to Google but it seems there are no adult children of the well adjusted?)

Unlike many of my peers that struggled with a divorce as a young kid,  my family shifted after I was old enough to have already left the house.  I was in my early twenties when I was smacked in the face with the reality that my parents were their own people and perhaps their function in this life was not to wait by the front door to welcome me home bi-monthly.  There were growing pains and tears and eventually there were new family structures.

When my father sold the house I grew up in (affectionately dubbed the “free storage facility”) it was official.  I could no longer “go home again.” Boxes of notes from middle school, old prom dresses and family pictures were distributed to their rightful owners and it was over.  I drive by the “old house” sometimes and it feels weird.  My life was in that house.  My family.

Fast forward fifteenish years and here I am in a house with my own family.  A husband, two kids and a dog and a Christmas tree.  One would think I would no longer lament that original loss. But in the darkest hours, in the moments I am  flopped on my bed with over-tired, red swollen eyes and feel like I need a good cry I often say “I just wish I could go home.  To my mom and dad.”

1504079_10201924620548844_1484615996_nThat is what being an adult child is, I guess.  Instead of “I want my Mommy & Daddy!” the “adult” child laments the loss of their childhood in some way or another.  The “well-adjusted” adult child dries their eyes and doesn’t use the pain of being an adult anything as an excuse to be an asshole. Or at least that is what I aim for in my pursuit of being well-adjusted.  Try not to be an asshole.  I have lofty goals.

A few weeks ago I had a very emotional round of phone calls that resulted in an opportunity to go home again.  Thomas Wolfe says you can’t go “back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting” but when you realize that you will be having Christmas morning in your home with both your mother and your father for the first time in a long time and you never, ever thought you’d have that again… well, you get a little verklempt.

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I spent a few days trying to wrap my mind around it.

I mentioned to a friend that I don’t know how to process things I can’t write about.  The circumstances aren’t my story to tell.  I do my best to be respectful of my friends and family and find a balance between my compulsion to share my story with the world and the privacy of those that don’t. It’s a shame really because I had a great working title to the blog post – “The Christmas That Was Just Like Austin.”

I thought it would be weird.  I thought it might be sad and nostalgic and tense and wonderful. I thought I might go all Hayley Mills in Parent Trap only with wine instead of a twin sister as my devious counterpart.  But mostly I thought it would be weird.

I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee this morning and I have no house guests. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the gifts have been relocated to their proper locations. Both of my parents have returned to their respective houses.

I can’t find the words.  This week we will all crawl out of our holiday holes and someone will casually asks me “How was your Christmas?”  I suspect my eyes will well with tears and I will say simply “It was great.  We stayed home.”

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The Smell of Winter

I wasn’t just trying to get off the phone.  It was an emergency.  Something reeked. I had to find it.  “Mom, I have go to go, something smells like mildew or something!!”

I emptied out under the sink.  Nothing was leaking. It didn’t actually smell under there at all.

Earlier in the week we’d had a party. The dog was generously fed by everyone. In the following few days I think I said “Jeeezus, Fisher.  Man.  What did the dog eat?” about 857 billion times.  It smelled.  Bad.  Really bad.  Dog fart bad.

I have a top loading washing machine and I don’t close the top when I am not running it.  I don’t use the $7 tablets to wash my washing machine.  I just run a  load with bleach every now and again and I figure it is clean.  But this week I stood in front of the Affresh tabs for about 17 seconds (which with a toddler in tow at the grocery store feels like a millenium.) Because something smelled really bad when I was doing laundry.

The smell. It was following me.

My offspring are strange little beings.

My offspring are strange little beings.

When I was pregnant with Lucy I went on an all out rampage until I found one. single. mothball.  This was no mothball.  This was a bad, bad smell and I was going to find it.

Last week I pulled a rosary from Lucy’s mouth.  It was weird and frightening in the same way that those magicians pulling the scarves from their mouths can be, with an added bonus of overt religiosity.  I mentioned this on Facebook and several of my friends wanted to know why there was a rosary in my house to begin with.  I explained it away quite simply.  My husband has all brands of religious artifacts. He keeps most of them on an altar high up on a bookshelf.

I don’t mess with his stuff and he lets me write about our deepest darkest secrets on the internet.  We have an understanding. So when he said “I found the smell” sheepishly I had no idea it had been coming from his altar.  I had no idea what was even up there.

He could have just thrown it away.  He could have kept it a secret and I’d have been convinced the smell had gone dormant in the cold and I’d have worried and wondered about what was rotting under the floorboards of the kitchen for months.

But instead he told me.

I’m not trying to tell you what to do.  And I will admit that our family has had great juju, good times, lots of laughs and a relative absence of negativity in the last several months. I’m just saying that if you put AN EGG ON A SHELF IN YOUR KITCHEN DON’T LEAVE IT THERE FOR MONTHS.  Because it will eventually stink.  And your wife will be the only one that can smell it at first.  And she will start to lose her ever-loving mind.

But your trash cans will get cleaned out.  I suppose that’s a plus.

Whatever your religious and spiritual pursuits have you doing this holiday season I hope you remember where you put your egg!!!  Merry Christmahanakwanzika, y’all and enjoy your Yule and Winter Solstice tomorrow!

 

Choice

I don’t push other people’s posts and videos often.  But I am moved to do so this morning.

Watch this video.  Or don’t.  The whole point of the video is that you have a choice. You make conscious decisions.  I hope you choose to watch this.  I hope you try to live it.  I plan to.

This moved me so that I sought out the source.  If you are interested: here is a transcription of David Foster Wallace’s entire 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address.

Keeping Up Appearances

I used to mow the grass  in cut off Levi 501s and a bikini top.  It was an excuse to strut back and forth in the yard and work on my tan. As time wore on those Levis got shorter and shorter but I got older and sassier and cared less and less about what was appropriate.  I was mowing my damn grass, right?  And wolf whistles happened less and less frequently.  I’d take what I could get.

This summer I mowed the grass often just to have a few minutes to myself.  The cut off Levis have long since been retired.  These days I don’t put a tremendous amount of thought in to what I wear to mow the grass.  None of my neighbors (the same neighbors that wave at me daily as I stroll down the street with my dog or run by in the morning with the jogging stroller) are likely to cat call anyway so who might I even try to impress?

But my grass mowing attire was at least Go Out in Public Even If It Is Only To The Gas Station worthy.  I would be traipsing back and forth across my yard for thirty minutes.  This warrants more care than the Run Down To The End Of The Driveway With The Trash Can Before You Miss The Trash Truck outfit.

And then this happened.

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Look carefully.  This woman reflected in the side of her car is wearing a velour sweatsuit with the pants pegged so as to not drag along the ground and Crocs.  Let me repeat that.  I have PEGGED THE LEGS OF MY VELOUR SWEAT PANTS.  And I have chosen to wear socks and Crocs.  Now I think that some kind of a tool (any kind, really) can elevate a woman’s hotness.  But let’s face it.  A leaf blower is not much of a tool.

I think I have given up.  It has happened.

I remember (as long ago as yesterday when I would not have dreamed of doing this!) looking at women and thinking “what the hell is wrong with you?  You have a pulse, for fuck’s sake, brush your hair” and now look at me. What am I doing? Perhaps this has been a lesson in “Judge Not Less Ye Be Judged.”

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Granted, I have a terrible cold. My youngest looks like a refugee and is currently wearing a shirt belonging to my oldest and flowered pants.  Her baby is being toted around in a towel.   I haven’t really made much in the way of dinner in two days and I am running on caffeine and Dayquil. (Speaking of running, I knocked back two slugs of Dayquil this morning, before I left for my run and set a PR for a 5K distance.  Not an all time PR, but a since I have been injured PR.  Wheee!  Bronchodilators for the Win!!)

I am not at my best.  I’m not sleeping.  Showering is a successful day.  I am spent and cranky and not looking for a hot date.  But pegged velour sweatpants?

I can do better than that. I can.  And I will.  You have my word.

I’m a wreck.  But my yard looks nice.

So, how are you? Have you caught yourself doing anything mortifying lately?  

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I like to mow instead of rake. It’s like vacuuming your yard.

 

 

Existential Parenting

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Lucy looks like a happy kid.  Here we see her heading in to the gym to see her pals.  She enjoys coloring, playing with the large legos and chatting it up with the other small people.  On the way out of the gym she receives a dixie cup filled with animal crackers or goldfish, after she washes her hands, of course.  This is typically a highlight of our day.

By all accounts, life is pretty good.

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When not mingling with her kind she enjoys a little solitary time.  My girl likes to relax.  She kicks back and takes in the world. Life is simple.

But I fear that underneath Lucy’s happy exterior lurks something deeper.  I think she is struggling to do more than just exist.  She is finding her essence, perhaps this life of coloring and taking walks is just not enough.  What gives me this idea?

Take a look at Lucy’s bookshelf.  A good look.

No Exit

Right there between Eric Carle’s “With Us, on the Earth and Sea” and the mind numbing rhyming of “Hop on Pop” we have Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit and Three Other Plays.”

This kid is going to be hell in her teenage years.

“Criminals together. We’re in hell, my little friend, and there’s never any mistake there. People are not damned for nothing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

Kickstart My Heart

I have a tendency to yammer on a bit.  I know this is a shocking reveal.  I will give you a second to pull your jaw up off the floor.

This morning I was delivering a lengthy commentary on the level of my satisfaction with my marriage to MQD.  He was leaning against the counter, smiling.  He was listening.  Naturally, I felt encouraged and kept talking.

“I’ve been thinking maybe this wasn’t a big mistake,” he said with his signature smirk.

Just when I start to make peace with the fact that I am definitely the funniest, he slays me.

For nearly four years I have had a single favorite picture of this fellow I am proud to call my husband.

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It really captures the joie de vivre of our early courtship.

Last night we were at the local elementary school for some rocking good Friday night fun when I said “Oh!  Let me get your picture by that sign!” and shockingly, he agreed.

It might be my new favorite picture.  It captures the essence of the change that has taken place.  I have lamented here before that my 25 year-old boy became a 30 year-old man.  But if I am honest with myself, I am partly to blame and perhaps even to credit.  Because he really has been building his character, one cougar at a time.

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 I love you, MQD.  I hope I am your cougar for a long, long time.  As you turned up the radio this morning and shook your ass I had to laugh.  “This is a wedding song!” you said.

“Perhaps not for everyone.  But yep.  It is one of ours.”

You do.  You kickstart my heart every morning.