Seek First to Understand…

They knelt in silent, peaceful protest on Sunday before the game. They were told, “yes, you are being peaceful, but this isn’t the appropriate venue for your protest.”

They protested in the streets, and some became violent and destructive. They were told, “of course you have the right to protest, but you should do it peacefully.”

They raised their fists to the air in anger and defiance. They were told, “you are protesting the wrong thing.”

Imagine the frustration of being told WHAT your feelings SHOULD be, HOW you should express them, and WHERE it is appropriate to show them. Is it not clear that treating people this way displays a general attitude toward them that would be perceived as both degrading and insulting?

“Here, sit in this cordoned off area, far from the public, far from other people, and hold your signs peacefully and then go home. No one cares. Just don’t bother us with it. It makes us uncomfortable.”

Protests are not supposed to make you comfortable. They are meant to do just the opposite… make you uncomfortable enough to think about the message they are trying to convey. Often when protesters feel that they are not being heard, or that they feel that their message is being distorted, they will do what they feel is necessary to command attention. Whether chanting loudly in a public place, or laying across a highway to disrupt traffic, or setting fires in the streets, or crashing bricks through windows… such instability is a signal that protesters have reached the limits of their desperation to be heard.

So, when protests occur and things escalate, it isn’t helpful to say things like, “Welp, when they destroy property, they just detract from their message.” The truth is, statements like that are condescending and insincere because it’s likely you didn’t just stop listening when the fires started; you may have not even been listening in the first place.

Many of you have questioned why protesters would be setting fire and destroying black-owned neighborhood businesses and low-income housing. And while it seems like a fair question on the surface, I am beginning to understand how patronizing it is to even try to highlight that detail. I think that we should all be able to agree that the media will showcase the most egregious, disturbing images even when they most likely do not represent the majority in attendance. I would be willing to wager that most damages that are inflicted are not perpetrated by protesters from the actual community.

There are ALWAYS going to be crazies that show up at protests. But it is important not to define a whole movement by the actions of a few people. How do you Right-to-Lifers feel when you are defined by the abortion clinic bombers? Most of your protesters are actually very loving and accommodating, but because some of them are off-the-rails nut bags, that is the coverage that defines you in the media. There is really no difference here, as far as I can see.

The other thing that doesn’t help matters is what I refer to as the “bad apple excuse”. Stop using whatever platform you may have to announce that people shouldn’t blame all cops because of “a few bad apples”. I find this comment to be a little comical and a lot hypocritical. While you are blaming the protesters for the actions of a few, you simultaneously demand that the cops NOT be blamed for the very same thing. Remember, when you point your finger at someone, three of your fingers are pointed at yourself. (Kudos to those of you physically pointing right now to see what I am talking about… lol)

Do I know that there are a lot of great cops out there? You bet I do. Have I heard them speak out about problems with racial profiling and discrimination? Yes, I have. But I also know that it can be hard to imagine that their feelings are widely shared amongst cops when so many of them stand by and do nothing. George Floyd may have been killed under the literal knee of one man… but the lack of action by the other offices suffocated him under the figurative knees of four. Police Officers need to be able to feel that they can trust their brothers in blue while still feeling like they can stand up against any injustices that they may perceive. As a woman, I can certainly understand how unnerving it would be for me to have to draw attention to misogyny or harassment in the workplace. I can empathize with the struggle to just “let the little things go” because you don’t want to be labeled as sensitive or a snitch. I get it. But just as I have grown to understand that it is more important to prioritize my self-worth (not to be confused with self-preservation) and act with integrity, so should you. The right thing isn’t always easy, but it is never wrong. And if more and more cops start to demand better, real change can start to take place and the country can begin the healing process. Sometimes, you have to scrape and flush a wound with saline before you can start to sew it up.

There is that moment, when we see a headline, or watch a news segment, or read a tweet, or see a meme that makes our teeth clench with indignation and our fingers start to buzz as we prepare to drop a load of “truth” on the original poster and finish it off with a dollop of snark. That little moment holds a world of opportunity. That is the time where we get to decide what is most important to us… winning or understanding.

Let’s try more understanding… so we all have a better chance of winning.

Going for the TKO – Not a Good Look on Anybody

I once thought it intriguing the way that people with strong allegiances to their chosen political party would argue about an issue. Actually, using the term “argue about” is not particularly accurate as it seems that mostly people “argue around” each issue. It felt a bit like sitting in a folding chair at a local boxing match, watching the two opponents dance around the ring, occasionally taking quick jabs where they see an opening, spending a lot of time trying to deflect incoming fists, and taking cheap shots whenever they can. I found it entertaining watching people literally regurgitate excerpts from obviously biased “news” sources and defend that little nugget of information with absolute blind faith that it was true, with no regard to context.

It is no longer entertaining. It is PAINFULLY obvious that no one actually gives a DAMN about a problem, only about making sure that they are blaming the other party and using different “crises” as props for their political grandstanding and pompous indignation that lacks any real sincerity.

We have turned into a nation where a priority ambition is to establish which party is actually behaving more like Nazis. It gives the impression of a newsroom in which reporters and journalists analyze copy and video clips of the opposition trying to manipulate the intended meaning so that they have “clear evidence” of the reincarnation of Hitler. It’s pretty gross, really.

To me, it seems that the script to every argument surrounding our borders these days can be boiled down to this:

D: We have a humanitarian crisis at our border! They are keeping kids in cages! Trump is evil!

R: Obama did the same thing! Where was the outrage then? BUILD THE WALL!

D: GTFO with your whataboutisms! Stop deflecting. Why do you hate immigrants so much?

R: They are here ILLEGALLY – come in the right way or get shipped back home! Why don’t they have to obey the law? We can’t just let in sex traffickers and drug dealers and gang members!

D: These are ALL people seeking asylum! And we are ripping their babies from their arms at the border and ripping families apart! Trump needs to fix this now!

R: Spare me with the fake rage. You liberals are all deranged! Why didn’t you ask Obama to fix it? You only care now because of Trump.

D: Here we go again with the whataboutisms, just admit you’re racist!

And so it goes, round after round. Anyone else see how ridiculous BOTH sides are being AND how unproductive this dialogue is?? Absolutely NOTHING is accomplished here, other than irritating anyone within hearing distance. The worst part about it is that this is the way that politicians sound to me as well. And while they continue to focus their time on participating in this asinine exchange of rhetoric, THERE IS STILL A HUGE PROBLEM AT OUR BORDER THAT NEEDS ADDRESSING.

The absolute REFUSAL of Congress to cooperate and find compromise at our borders is, to me, a clear indication that we have allowed something to happen that I, along with many others, would like to believe that our Founding Fathers did not intend. But I cannot know that for sure and for all I know, this country is being run EXACTLY as they intended. Here’s the thing; they are all dead. They have been for a very long time. It does NO good to harp about what our founders intended. Time moves on and people evolve. It would seem to me that our government should also evolve with the times. Yet, here we sit with 535 members of Congress that are supposed to be representing US and working for the good of US citizens. Career politicians. Consistently towing the party line and saying all the right things, insulting everyone with whom they disagree and paying off all the right people to keep their position. It is a never-ending campaign which leaves me wondering, when do they actually get some work done? If only there were term limits, but that would require Congress to change the laws and impose those limits on themselves. We all know that is not going to happen. Instead, this government of ours which was supposed to be OF the People, FOR the people and BY the people has become a rabid beast snarling over its bone and daring us to try and take it away.

So, my plea to Congress:

SHUT UP AND DO YOUR JOBS. I don’t give a DAMN who is at fault here. It clearly isn’t a new problem but it is growing and needs resolution. FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT. If you cannot play well with others, maybe you need to get out of the sandbox. Listen to one another with the intent to understand. Try on different ideas and explore the different potential outcomes. Forget about the ‘R’ or the ‘D’ behind your name and focus on the issue at hand. Establish a common philosophy on how the end result should look. I am betting that the ideal outcome isn’t that different for most of you. And if the desired final outcome is similar, surely you are smart enough to come up with a mutually agreeable way to obtain it! And lastly, for the love of all that is holy, learn something about honesty and integrity. Stand up for what you believe, but don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” People are discerning and find that kind of honesty refreshing. It’s okay to change your mind – just acknowledge that you have. Take the opportunity to explain WHY you changed your mind. Be willing to keep learning even more. The more honest someone is about themselves, the less they seem to try and point out the faults of everyone else. It is refreshing and we need to see more of it from every single one of you. (I’m looking at you too, Mr. President.)

And for the rest of us, the ones that keep fighting and getting meaner and meaner, partially because we feel like we have absolutely no control. We need to remember….

There will always be some people who hold hate against others for completely unsubstantiated reasons. (Such as the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion, their political affiliation, their gender, the birthmark on their chin, the size of their mailbox, their favorite restaurant…)

There will always be some Muslims who will join radical terrorist organizations with aspirations of bringing death to infidels.

There will always be some Christians who will continue to preach that God is Love yet practicing anything but while placing their own human judgement on anything of which they do not approve or understand and then labeling it as “God’s will”.

There will always be some white people that will think that they are superior to all other races and will display repulsive speech and spout ignorant garbage.

There will always be some black people that hate all white people without discretion.

But MOST of us? Most of us don’t relate to any of those categories. However, the message of the “few” is intensified because it seems that these small groups are just so loud. And then we react to them. And as we react, we build their stage for them and inadvertently amplify their voices. How about we STOP reacting to them and just sing louder? Stop giving them coverage and any type of platform to spew their ugliness? It doesn’t mean shut them down and demand that they stop talking. I have always said that, if I do not believe in freedom of speech for those whom I despise, I do not believe in it at all. But I don’t have to look at it or listen to it. I don’t have to respond to it. I do not wish to give the negativity any air. Because fire, without oxygen, will be extinguished and be unable to burn. I have all the faith in the world that we can outshine the message of the few if we just all try.

 

 

Because Perspective Changes Everything

My oldest has moved into the age where he is increasingly aware of events and attitudes that he hears about or observes. Because of his limited perspective due to his age and experience, discussions have known to rapidly derail as I try to help him make sense of it all. My son is very contemplative as he attempts to absorb new information and piece it together in ways that make sense to him. Occasionally, he will ask questions that seem non-related and I will just answer those quickly, trying to lead the conversation back to the topic at hand. What I am learning is that every question he asks is actually a part of his process and is absolutely related as far as he is concerned. I can tell that this kid is going to be a fascinating specimen as he matures and forms different opinions throughout the years. But for now, it is about trying to teach him how to keep an open mind, showing him how to be informed and be respectful in the delivery of his opinions as well as being aware of how he justifies them.

An interesting teaching experience presented itself this week during a trip to a local park. Being a week long holiday from school, I planned to have at least three days spent doing a fun activity away from home. The weather report was calling for heavy rains every day except for Monday, so I was determined to find a good outdoor adventure for us to start the week. My original plan was to take the boys to the Botanical Gardens since neither had ever been. We intended to get up in the morning, eat some breakfast and then go pick up our groceries. After putting them away, the plan was to leave immediately and be on the road by 9:30 a.m. for our adventure. Thank goodness that I did a last-minute search for any discount coupons and realized that the Gardens are not open on Mondays. I began the quick scramble online to figure out what we could do that wouldn’t require a ton of preparation. We needed to head out due to the nap schedule of the baby. It was quickly decided that we would go to Stone Mountain to ride the cable car and play atop the mountain. It was the last day that the cable car would be running for a while to take care of yearly maintenance so it sounded like a good idea. Once we arrived, we realized that they also had their “Snow Mountain” attraction open and the boys were excited to play in the “snow”. The day was going splendidly and we were all having a fantastic time but after a couple of hours, I noticed the baby starting to show signs of fatigue. For him, that means shouting, squirming and becoming increasingly disagreeable. I told the oldest that we were going to have to head back to the car.

“But… we didn’t go to the Museum yet. You promised we could go in the Museum.” He looked up at me expectantly.

He was right, I did promise. But I also did that when I did not realize we would be spending an hour playing in snow land. I knew that the museum was on our way out of the park and that it would not be as interesting as he thought. I figured we would just walk through and “ohhh and ahhh” our way past the displays.

We walked in and showed our armbands. Noticing the posted sign, I also begrudgingly pulled the baby out of the stroller and committed to try and keep a hold on him as we walked through. Luckily, we were the only people there. It is wide open and the displays are meant to be touched and difficult to destroy. I set him down and let him start running around. Everything in the museum is related to the carving that is on the mountain. It is a massive, albeit unfinished, depiction of three Civil War Confederates: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis.

The park itself was purchased by the State of Georgia from the Venable brothers as a memorial to the Confederacy. I grew up just a few miles from the park and spent a great deal of time there. I will say that my fondest memories all involve climbing the mountain, playing on the huge grassy hill, picnicking with family, riding the train around the mountain at Halloween, taking a ride on the cable car, watching the massive laser show projected onto the mountain and the huge fireworks shows that they would produce. None of my memories really invoke some sense of Confederate pride. But I cannot deny that Stone Mountain (not unlike Six Flags) does seem to be a little overloaded in their tributes to the Confederacy.

For the sake of fairness, I will say that it is clear that both places have been making efforts to change some of this. For instance, the “Antebellum Plantations” at Stone Mountain have been renamed “Historic Square” to deflect from the realities that would have taken place at homes just like this, all across the South. The Monster Plantation ride at Six Flags was renamed Monster Mansion. I have no problem with the changes, that is fine. But I don’t think that removing the homes from the Historic Square does any type of service to anyone. I like to visit old homes of all types just to see how people lived in a different time or location than myself. I don’t think that touring a plantation because I am fascinated by old things would be an indicator of my support for things that happened in that home. It is history. It is a reminder of where we have been as a nation. History is not always pretty. Which is why we study it and try to refrain from repeating the ugly parts.

We continued wandering around, marveling at the size of the carving, the pictures of the work in progress, and how small it looks from the ground. My oldest asked who the men were on the horses and I told him that they were soldiers in the Civil War. He seemed satisfied with that and we kept moving along. It was hard to say whether he even heard me or if his mind had already wandered off to another place, full of brand-new questions. We walked back to the parking lot to load up the car and head back home. As I jumped up into the driver’s seat, he made a announcement that I realized I was going to have to address and he wasn’t going to understand most of it.

“Those soldiers on the mountain. They are heroes that saved the world!”

Crap.

I started slow, trying to make sense of what I needed to say in my head before relaying it to him. “Well, Bud… actually. They lost the war. And that was a good thing.”

He was genuinely confused. “How is it good to lose a war?”

“Well, you will learn more about it as you get older. But one of the biggest things that you will hear about is slavery. The Confederacy, or the South, wanted to be able to keep slaves. Do you know what slaves were?”

“Yes.”

“What do you know about them?” I asked. He just had this look on his face like he was not really sure that he knew much but too embarrassed to admit it.

I was right. He met my eyes in the rear-view mirror and then looked down. “I just know that there were slaves. Ms. Clark said so.”

“Well, what did Ms. Clark tell you?”

“THAT, Mom. There were slaves. That is bad and we don’t believe in it now. That’s all.” He was getting frustrated and I felt bad for him because I could tell that the pieces were not coming together for him. Nothing was making sense. He didn’t have enough information to link it all.

I very gently but honestly explained to him what slavery meant and why it was so important that it be abolished. I answered a few more of his sweet questions. Then he became quiet. I thought that he was just done with talking about it and moving on. But then he spoke up again and once again, his conclusion took me totally by surprise.

“You know what’s dumb? Making a carving of a loser. I would carve a winner.”

There are so many discussions left to be had with him about history, art and politics in the years to come, I decided to just let this one lie as it is for now. He doesn’t need to hear that we may not always like the subject of a particular piece of art, but it can still make us feel things and think, or just be amazed. Or that people can have differing opinions without hating one another. Or that some vile things have occurred in history. But for now, well… my son says he would carve a winner. And that is good enough for me.

Ain’t Too Proud To Beg… For Peace

Dear Democrats and Republicans (mentioned alphabetically for the sake of objectivity),

I feel the need to start by saying that each of you have some decent, bi-partisan folks in your camps who know what it means to compromise and how to do it. Unfortunately, neither of you listen to these members of your respective parties.

You sit on either side of the table, hunched over your fragile egos, screaming with fists raised in the air, spittle flying from the corners of your foaming mouths, fat fingers shoved in one another’s direction, bellowing “FOUL!” at every turn and seeking out ways to lay the blame at the feet of your opponents. And if you cannot find ways to blame them, you will find ways to shame them, even if it means fabricating the details to make your stories sound more plausible. You ignite fire storms and then stand over the burning rubble demanding that someone stand up and take responsibility for the destruction. You spew hateful insults at one another and then screech that “THEY” are the ones causing the great divide between the people of this country, all the while using divisive language, name-calling, and self-righteous tongue lashings to disparage the very character of someone who simply disagrees with you. Instead of listening and trying to understand opposition, you make assumptions about what they think and feel and then use those assumptions to attempt and discredit them. You refuse to acknowledge ANY success whatsoever if it did not come from your side and will fight tooth-and-nail against an idea that originates ‘across the aisle’ even if it is an idea that you once supported. You hold your opponents to a standard much higher than that to which you hold your own. Scripts flip routinely and when you are questioned as to why the change, you scramble to piece together some explanation that is typically ridiculous yet you cling to it like it’s the only pool noodle you have in the middle of the Atlantic. Your elected officials take every opportunity to campaign to keep their jobs instead of doing the very job that they were selected to do. Instead of serving their constituents, they find ways to appease the proper lobbyists and ensure that their own coffers are full. The biggest concern is always who has the most power and who calls all the shots, not the good of We the People. A ceasefire is long overdue.

I have no delusions of left hands holding right hands, singing Kumbaya and sharing warm and fuzzy sentiments. However, I strongly believe that anyone who truly desires peace and unity is capable of opening their minds and actually listening to opinions and ideas that differ from their own. Instead of presuming to know the intentions of another, ask them. There is nothing wrong in asking questions to better understand the paradigm through which someone else views an issue. When we genuinely seek to understand and find commonality, our questions are inevitably respectful and aide in building a strong foundation upon which we can build a new awareness and true appreciation for our differences.

As it stands, if I were to believe what you all preach, the majority of people in this nation are all stupid and/or evil. Fortunately, I can smell the bullshit and I know better than to believe what you all tell me is wrong with the other side. The good news for all of you is that there are a lot of us on the outside, who don’t totally agree with any of you and refuse to blindly follow party lines. And we are all able to see that you guys are really not all that different from one another. Next time you find yourself debating with someone on the other side of the table, try to discuss your respective goals and outcomes. While your proposed methods of achievement may contradict one another, you will find, more often than not, people just want the best for our country. Once you can establish that common ground, the possibilities are endless.

Do better. Look in the mirror instead of across the aisle. Ask not what they need to do differently, instead ask what you can do to improve the airspace you occupy. Demand better from your elected officials and if they do not deliver, find a candidate that will. Remind them of their role. Let go of the need for your ego-driven, snarky comments about the intelligence level of an entire group of people based on their political affiliation. I can assure you that it does not puff you up the way you seem to think it does.

Kindness opens more ears and hearts than hate ever will. Remember that if you ever want to be heard.

 

Sincerely,

An extremely disheartened American

Mirror, Mirror, On Them All

Once upon a time, I shared with a small group from my church that I wanted them to join me in praying for patience. The sweet mom of a friend of mine warned me, “When you pray for patience, the Good Lord will give you an opportunity to practice it.”

I have often been reminded of that piece of advice through the years and this particular day was no exception.

It was almost lunchtime on a Tuesday and the baby and I were leaving Pigtails and Crewcuts after his first haircut. The change in him was just as dramatic as it was with my oldest son and I found myself starting the process of mourning my last baby as he completes the transition into toddlerdom. A highlight reel of all the little moments spent with his fat little cheeks nuzzled up under my chin played in my head as we pulled out of the parking lot. It wasn’t until I had already turned left and started off down the road that I realized, in my daze, I had turned in the wrong direction. Laughing at myself, I started to get over to make a U-turn when I remembered that I was not far from one of my favorite delis and I suddenly got the craving for a cup of broccoli cheese soup. The baby was in a good mood so I continued on toward the restaurant. I saw the shopping plaza coming up on my right and slowed to turn in. That is when it happened.

He was coming from the opposite direction in a white Acura, his blinker indicating that he planned to turn across my lane into the same plaza. The light was green so I had the right of way. That did not seem to matter as he darted in front of me, narrowly missing my front end and causing me to slam on the brakes so that he did not ram into me. As I pulled in behind him, a switch flipped in my brain and I lost myself.

With shaking hands of fury, I decided that this guy needed to be punished and it was my job to do it. And by punish, I meant “give a stern talking to”. What can I say? The thug life chose me.

It seemed to be my lucky day because he parked and I realized he was going to the same deli. I parked right behind him and practically pounced out of my car like a kitten who has eyed a ball of yarn. As I walked around the back of my car to get the baby out, I stared at him without stopping. He was still sitting in his car without moving as the baby and I walked toward the door, in front of which he was directly parked. I never stopped looking at him, judging his character and deciding the best way to verbally take him down. As if I was not being dramatic enough, I opened the door and turned around to stare him down for a full 3 seconds before spinning on my heel and blowing through the door like a self-righteous wind. He was still sitting there in his car, blue tooth hanging from his ear, when I got to the counter to order. Before anyone came up front to offer service, I saw him walk in the door and pause when he saw me at the counter, turn and walk into the restrooms. When he came out, I was giving my order and I noticed him walk to the pick-up area and turn to face the wall, just to avoid looking at me. I could feel the sneer on my face as I walked right up behind him to wait for my name to be called. Then I literally began to laugh out loud when he walked sideways along the wall and moved to the other end of the counter, far away from where the baby and I were standing. It wasn’t long before my order was ready and I took another look across the restaurant to see if he was still there. He was busily looking through the four bags of food he had, checking the contents. Seeing a perfect opportunity, I slowed my gait in an effort to reach the door just before he did so that I could open the door for him and give him a lecture about the dangers of being a self-absorbed road hog. I intended to throw something in there about how he put my child at risk with his carelessness. My excitement grew as I plotted his dressing-down.

But he wasn’t moving. As I stood ten paces from the door pretending to fumble through my coat pockets to find my keys, he stood at the counter pretending to check, double and triple check his bags. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was not planning to leave until I walked out to my car. Disappointed, I “found” my keys and stomped out to my car. One last glance back to the shop window revealed him inching toward the exit. I jumped into my seat and slammed the car door. Only then did he dart outside, toss the bags into his backseat and slide into his own vehicle.

Slightly disgruntled at my failure to put this schmuck in his place, I drove to the exit of the parking lot and stopped, waiting for the light to change to green. Even though the incident was seemingly over, I peered into the rearview mirror to see if he was going to pull up next to me to turn back in the direction from which he arrived. I figured I might be able to get in one last pursed lip, Church Lady scowl before he pulled away and I never see him again. Instead, what I saw caused me to start laughing out loud.

He was creeping at a snail’s pace toward the light and then suddenly turned into a parking spot near the exit and just sat. And I lost it. I shouted, “HE’S SCARED OF ME!” then watched incredulously as the light turned green and I turned out on to the road because as soon as I was cleared of the intersection, I saw him start pulling back out of the space to exit the parking lot. I could not stop the belly laughs that erupted from me, interrupted only by my repeated shouts of “I SCARED HIM!”. I was laughing so loud and joyously that the baby started laughing as well, clapping his hands and kicking his feet.

My celebration, complete with fist pumping and some hybrid form of weird jazz hands, lasted for about a full minute and then stopped abruptly when the thought passed through my head, “He probably wasn’t scared. He was embarrassed.”

I say it passed through but the reality is that this new reflection came in and set up camp right in the middle of my thoughts. I kept replaying the episode but trying to watch through this new humiliation filter. I thought about how many times I have misjudged how much room I have to get over or how much time I have to pull out in front of someone and have felt my face grow hot with embarrassment and shame for endangering the lives of strangers. Those times when I have found myself sinking down in my seat and wishing there was a button that I could push that would extend a big sign over my car reading, “My fault. So sorry!!” because I didn’t have the stones to look the person in the face. I thought about how horrific it would have been had I nearly caused an accident and then had my “near victim” park right behind me and enter my intended destination. Not only that, but what if they stared me down while they walked in the door? I had to be honest with myself, I don’t think that I would have been brave enough to walk inside too.

At that moment, I saw something different in that guy than I had been able to see through the entire interaction. I saw myself. And it suddenly became so clear that we are both just souls living the human experience. Our journeys are our own and we both have so many lessons that we are here to learn. Humanity is the tangible proof that we are all connected.

I cannot go back and behave differently. I cannot walk into that deli and smile and the guy to let him know that I understand. All I can do is remind myself for the future and tell my story so that others may think twice the next time they find themselves in a similar situation.

We are all connected and best served by loving and taking care of ourselves. When we make a conscious choice to look at others as mirrors in which we see ourselves reflected, we will see no option other than to also love and take care of them too. Live well, choose compassion, change the world.

Namaste.

If I Am Not Embarrassed, Does That Mean I Have No Shame?

Writing Prompt #3

Write about being caught doing something embarrassing. (The only hard part of this one is narrowing it down to which time. I have always been that girl… if I am doing something embarrassing, I will get caught!)

For many years, I worked in some facet of the healthcare industry. The majority of my experience was in the field of urology. For those who don’t know, it’s all about that urinary tract. From the kidneys, down to the bladder, through the prostate and out the “pee-hole”. One of the urologists that I worked for early in my career used to tell me that one could not be a urologist without a sense of humor. As a young 20-something, that sounded like great news to me. Who wouldn’t want to work with a bunch of comedians disguised as doctors? What I would come to find out over the years is that he was not exactly accurate with that assessment. Then again, this is the same doctor that called urology the “up and cumming” practice”, pretended to lick urine off of his fingers to “test for diabetes”, and asked me if it was true that I wore thongs to work.

Due to the fact that the newest drug on the market at the time was targeted to our very own patients, he would often be leaving an exam room after finishing up a routine visit and right as he started to open the door to exit, the patient would say casually, “By the way, Doc… I saw a commercial about Viagra. Can I try it?” Of course, this meant a few more minutes of questions to make sure that there were no contraindications with any other drugs or disorders the patient may have. Multiple times a day, he would come out of an exam room, dramatically swing the drug cabinet door open, remove some Viagra samples and say in a sing-song voice, “By the way, Doc!”.

He had quite a sense of humor, and as I reflect on it, I guess some of it would be considered inappropriate nowadays. I still remember him fondly though. He never made me feel uncomfortable. If anything, I was just as inappropriate. I loved ordering novelty underwear with the Care Bears or Fozzy Bear on them and I used to have them delivered to the office. More than once, I put the underwear on over my scrubs and pranced through the lab for anyone to see. Needless to say, I was not the type to be offended easily.

I remember the day that never seemed like it would never end. The office had been closed for over an hour and the other medical assistant and myself were still working hard to get everything finished up. There he appeared in the lab with 2 cups of ice and a can of coke. He set them down on our workspace and said, “when you are finished, bring this to my office”. When we walked into his office, cups of ice in hand, he opened his desk drawer and retrieved an unopened bottle of 1978 Crown Royale. We sat around, having a drink and laughing about the day as equals. That stuck with me. One never forgets being treated like a colleague rather than an employee.

His partner at the time was a short, red-faced man of few words. I was terrified of him when I first started working for him. When he got mad, and that was pretty often, he would stomp his foot as his face went crimson and then storm off, little dress loafers clicking all the way to the Manager’s office. He rarely confronted us directly, he always went through the proper chain of command. My guess is that it was less about following procedure and more about the fear of confrontation. After seeing quite a few of these tantrums, I started to notice a pattern. He was very particular and liked things done the same way every time. If people did what they were supposed to do, he was happy. After a few years, I couldn’t understand why people had such a hard time working for him because I loved it. I knew exactly what he expected and exactly what to do to make him happy… my job. Once our working relationship had reached this symbiotic level, he even let me start to see his other side. The one that knew everything about 60’s and 70’s music and answered the door barefoot. I grew very fond of him and very defensive of him with other co-workers. It meant a great deal to me to have his respect.

He had this microscope that he used every day. It was the same scope he had in college or something like that…very sentimental. The cover was very old too and the plastic had become very dry and stiff causing the it to keep its shape whether it was draped over the scope or not. And it just so happened to look like the tip of a gargantuan condom. I really wish that I never noticed that little gem. But I did.

I guess it is also necessary to mention that I liked to dance at work… a lot. But sometimes, the mood hit me just right as I was closing up shop and I would dance like a male stripper, with the microscope cover placed strategically over my, ahem, nether regions. My co-workers would laugh and, like a little monkey, I would amp up my performance to make them laugh harder. One night, I am going to town with the pelvic thrusts when I catch something moving in my peripheral vision. Glancing to the side, I see him standing there with his hands in his pockets, looking me up and down as I violate his personal microscope cover. I froze in place and could not think of one thing to say. He looks me in the eye and says,

“Well, Nena. Whatcha doin’ there?”

Mortified. That is the only word I can think of to precisely describe my emotions at that moment. I was flat out mortified and positive that I had just murdered the respect that I had worked so hard to earn. I surveyed the scene, still clutching the scope cover in one hand. It was the only thing that I could think to do. I knew my face must be purple and that my humiliation was visibly evident. So, I returned the cover to the scope, gave some sort of awkward curtsy and bid him good night. We never spoke of it again.

We didn’t. But it is almost 20 years later, and others still talk about it. And sometimes, I see a microscope under a plastic cover and I just gotta dance.

It may have been horrific at the time, but I don’t regret it one bit. The years of laughter that it has provided were well worth the mortification.

The Dance of The Enlightened

Writing prompt #2

Choose one of the natural wonders of the world and write about it. (WHAT? How is this supposed to spark any creativity? It feels more like a second grade project. But these are the rules….)

Of the natural wonders of the world, the one with which I am most fascinated would have to be the Northern Lights. I remember the first time that I ever saw a photograph of Aurora Borealis and I instantly wanted to be able to travel to a place where it is possible to view them in all of their glory. But to be honest, that is really the extent of my knowledge on the subject because frankly, I have no idea what they are and where they come from and why they can only be seen from certain places on Earth. Even though I can be a curious person, I guess that I have never been curious enough to find out more. In keeping with my typical thought processes, I probably have not been curious because deep down I know that no one else is ever going to want to go see them with me so I don’t dwell on them. That is not meant to sound pathetic. ALl it really means is that there are so many other places on Earth my family would collectively love to visit, this just may not be high enough up on the list! If I thought that there was a chance that we might plan a trip, I would be researching every piece of information that I could find so that I would be able to immerse myself completely in the experience. But I haven’t.

Then I get prompted to write about a natural wonder of the world and here we are. I know that I should at least get the basics from Wikipedia before switching to an image search and just taking in the glorious photographs, but I don’t. I make a beeline for the good stuff.  Maybe I really don’t want to know too much about what causes such a beautiful phenomenon. When I look at them, I don’t want to think about what kinds of gases might be colliding to cause such splendor. I want to imagine that it is caused by the dancing of souls who have no use for earthly bodies any longer as they have fully recognized their own divinity. Some of them sway to the rhythm of the Earth, humming with the collective energy of every soul in existence. Others leap gracefully to and fro, bubbling with effervescent love and leaving trails of magnificence behind them. These formless bursts of energy and love create a masterpiece against a night sky that reverberates with a message of remembrance. I just cannot fathom that someone might behold such majesty in person and not feel connected, if only for a minute, to that mystical place within that reminds us all of who we really are and the powers with which we are endowed.

And that is why I don’t want to learn more about Aurora Borealis. I would prefer to live in a world where dancing souls light up the night sky because they can’t contain all of their joy. Instead, they let it spill out into the dark and share it with the rest of the world. And that is what makes it a wonder.

What is there to say about the weather??

2018 began with a motivated me, a me full of expectations, a me buzzing excitedly with hopes and dreams. I was writing a great deal and feeling good about my progress. But the year took a few unexpected twists and turned me in a completely different direction for a few months. I don’t regret the detours, they were all worth the sacrifice. But now I am trying to get back to where I was and have found my mind blank. I needed help getting the creativity crackling through my mind again so I began a writing prompt exercise. It is meant to be started on January 1st, I am sure, as it is a 365 day exercise. But I was ready to start a few days ago and I decided that it may be a good idea to post my ramblings. Maybe somewhere in the prompts, some beautiful truths will be revealed. Who knows? I just think it might be fun.

Prompt #1

Write about the weather outside. (Seriously? The weather? What kind of prompt IS this even? What am I supposed to say about the weather??)

The rain started yesterday evening. It arrived accompanied by ferocious winds, whipping and howling through the trees. And though we could hear thunder rolling in the distance, effect from any lightning was faint, if noticeable at all. But the rain, it poured with the force of a thousand tap shoes, dancing across our roof. It seemed like the momentum of the storm did not let up, or even pause, for hours.

As I looked at the weather report for the upcoming day, I sighed. I didn’t do it because I dislike the rain, it is actually quite the opposite. Rain is comforting, soothing, and cleansing. As cliché as it has become to comment on the fact, I AM actually one of those people who sees the rain and immediately wishes I were snuggled on the couch with my coziest knit blanket, a cup of hot coffee and a book in which I can get lost. My rainy-day fantasy includes my kids playing joyfully on the floor and my husband reading his favorite political columnists while the dog naps on his bed by the heating vent. But even my fantasy is thwarted by that very  dog who does anything but nap on a rainy day. I saw the forecast and knew that the next morning would be highlighted with multiple accidents and I would be spending quite a bit of time cleaning up pee and poop from my floors. Even though I knew, because my husband had to go to work and I have a household to manage, that we would not have spent the day snuggling and reading anyway, I still would have enjoyed a day watching the kids play, doing laundry or other necessary chores and maybe even snuggling up with my oldest for a movie, hot chocolate and some popcorn while the baby took an afternoon snooze.

But again, I sighed. The reality is that I knew I would be on high alert all day, pacing through the first floor of my house looking for accidents before the baby could find them first. Said searches would be intermingled with attempts to get the dog to go outside and use the bathroom in the yard, standing in the rain myself while I try to coax him out of the house. Somewhere in there I will also have to make sure that the kids are fed and entertained. Left to wander, they both are expert level mischief makers and they both can go from satiated to hangry in a matter of seconds. I sighed because the outlook wasn’t good for me to get my own shower or even be able to eat something myself.

And here we are today. The rain gave us a break beginning sometime early this morning to almost 9am. Our yard was still covered with standing pools and enough water dripped from the trees that it sounded like it was still raining a bit. The dog, however, decided that he was okay to trot around the fenced-in area until he found a suitable place to do his business. He first went out at 6:30 this morning and now, three hours later, we have still yet to have an indoor accident. But like I said, the rains returned about a half an hour ago. The system that is currently sitting over my house differs from the torrential downpours of last night. There is no wind whatsoever and the rain is falling steadily, straight to the ground. On one hand, the lack of wind means that I don’t spend as much time worried about a tree limb snapping and hitting the house, or my neighbor’s water barrel falling from its tree again and exploding into my new wood fence. On the other hand, the lack of wind means these showers seem to be moving slowly and may spend a great deal of time camped out over my house. In a moment of genius, I took up his water bowl and reasoned that a lack of fluid intake would reduce his need to urinate.

So far, everything is golden. Actually, it is NOT golden. Which is fantastic news.

 

Rethinking My Think

wedding shoes 2

I have heard the sentence, “OH WOW! I would never have even noticed if you had not said anything!” at least 9,732 times in my life. Every time, it is delivered in a high-pitched voice that is just a little too loud. Sometimes, it can sound just like the person is really saying, “Oh, phew… you brought it up! I was wondering what happened.” I don’t know exactly why it irritates me so much. Maybe it is the inflection they use, maybe it is the volume of their voice… or just maybe it is the way they tilt their heads to the side and look at me with the pity eyes.

The other thing that I also get the privilege of hearing all too often is “Are you okay? You’re limping!” I probably should be kinder, but my typical response is, “I always do.” Sometimes I feel bad, especially if the person is just trying to make conversation, or if they seem really concerned that I am in pain. But for the most part, people are just curious and they cannot help themselves. They just need to know what happened to me.

When I was in my early 20’s, I got into the habit of telling people that I was working at McDonald’s in high school and that I fell into the meat grinder. Never mind the fact that there is no meat grinder in a McDonald’s or that, as I was once told but never confirmed, a meat grinder is operated by foot pedal. I wove a fictitious tale of standing on a counter top next to the alleged meat grinder, trying to reach something on top of a high shelf. I slipped and my right leg dropped into the churning blades, crippling my foot for life. It was shocking how many people believed the story. Occasionally, I would feel guilty when I finally told them the truth because I could see how stupid they felt for buying my load of crap but mostly I just laughed. It was easier that way, to laugh. As long as I was making jokes, I held all the cards and was able to control when they were played. I learned how to turn the attention to someone else so that no one noticed the significant size difference of my lower legs due to the modest muscle development of my right calf or that my foot floats inward when I am not consciously holding it straight or that I am unable to stand on my “tippy-toes”.

One of the big “A-HA” moments in my life would be the one where I realized that I had been deflecting attention from my little foot so well that it would be very reasonable of someone whom I had only known for a small amount of time to at some point say, “OH WOW! I would have never even noticed had you never said anything!” So, after a realization like that, it was clear that it was crucial for me to “rethink my think”.

The truth is that I was born with a clubbed foot and that I did nothing that caused it. I was born this way. It was neither genetics, nor some rare disease. It was not caused by injury or neglect. It was an unknown side effect of a prescribed medication that was thought to be safe at the time. Those are the facts, the truth. The defect was not in my brain, it was not a tumor pressing on any nerves that control different aspects of my personality. It did not have any medical impact on any of my senses. It did not weaken any of my other systems. And yet… I had somehow managed to let it be a large part of the foundation on which I had built my entire structure of self-worth.

There are many different opinions out there when it comes to the effects of media on children. For me, my own life is an example of the harmful effects of media on a young mind. I can only speak about my own experience. The sheer volume of Teen, YM and Seventeen magazines that littered my bedroom floor was the first big indicator. I poured through those magazines seeking out the magical formula that would show me how to turn myself into the girl that I dreamed of being. The clothes, entirely too expensive for most girls in the target audience, were modeled by young adults that had been airbrushed and edited beyond recognition. In my naïve young mind, these images were mere photographs of real people to which I compared every aspect of my physical appearance. According to the articles and advertisements, I could get that look with just the right combination of consumable products and Five Minute Workouts. Those magazines contained stacks and stacks of quizzes that could assess just how successful of a flirt I was based on ten multiple choice questions and instructional articles on how to improve my flirting if said quiz showed me to be somewhat of a dunce in attracting the opposite sex.

I remember the first time I tried to wash my face like the girl in the Noxzema commercial. A 2-minute face cleansing turned into 30 additional minutes of sopping water up off the bathroom floor in my dripping wet, pink and white striped, Esleep pajamas. I fought not to cry because, hand to God, I actually had the thought, “I can’t even rinse my face like a normal person!” I also wondered at the time if my failure was due to the fact that I had used regular bar soap instead of Noxzema. Yes, I believed that “normal” girls could wash their faces with reckless abandon and bop out of their dry bathrooms looking clean and refreshed. Because I had seen it on television.

There was a Christmas that I asked almost exclusively for different types of concealer, foundation and powders. There was enough ivory colored cream wrapped under the tree to cover a school bus full of children, three times over. I was only fourteen but was convinced that my uneven skin tone, blemishes, under-eye circles and freckles were out of control and obviously needed to be hidden from the world under several layers of Avon spackle. Thus began the years of a daily pore clogging routine that turned, what could have been, a typical case of adolescent acne into a full blown zit crisis. A zit crisis introduces the need for a targeted skin care regimen. Naturally, I chose to use Clean & Clear face wash and astringent. Because moisturizing isn’t important, right? Just drying that acne up and sending it straight to the bowels of hell, where it belongs. At least that is what the girl with the blemish-free skin in the advertisement told me. Okay, okay, so maybe the ad didn’t read that way exactly. Maybe it was just a picture of a girl drying her beautiful face with a bright white hand towel, wearing completely dry clothes and a bottle of Clean & Clear on the counter. But my takeaway was, “see my skin? You want this? See that bottle behind me? That’s all you need.”

Even as I got older and wiser when it came to the ways of the media, I still gave in to reading Cosmo, Mademoiselle, Elle, and Jane and trying to use them to figure out how to be an “It” girl. It was my early 20’s when these magazines really started to get to me and I began allowing myself to believe that it was not possible for me to attain the image I desired. And that was mainly because the media told me that it was unacceptable to go through life without the perfect pair of heels. Shoe designers themselves were the ones that were telling that I was not okay.

“When a woman puts on a heel, she has a different posture, a different attitude. She really stands up and has a consciousness of her body.” Christian Louboutin

My takeaway: Because my foot left me physically unable to wear heels, I am incapable of standing tall and proud. I belong in the shadows.

“I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say, ‘Oh my God! That looks so comfortable!’” Christian Louboutin

My takeaway: All I can wear are comfortable shoes. Who am I? Forest Gump? I should be ashamed of myself.

“Superwomen do it in high heels.”  Brian Atwood

My takeaway: I guess I’m no Superwoman then.

They are still advocating these ideals but I’m not mad at them. I don’t think that the statements were made intending to ostracize anyone, rather to empower the women who can wear their shoes. They have a brand to maintain and it has clearly worked for them. I don’t want to hate on their success… they really have some beautiful shoes and it would be a dream come true to wear them! But I am no longer as affected by what they have to say because it finally dawned on me that the only power they ever had over me was the power that I gave them.

Oh, how I wanted and tried to walk in all sorts of high heels. I paid good, hard-earned money for so many pairs that I just knew would be the ones to change my life. But no, even if I was able to get my foot into them, I was not able to walk without looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s embarrassing to disclose how many times I stood like a flamingo, staring at myself in the mirror wearing a singular, beautiful piece of art designed for a foot. Shopping for shoes when one there is a 2-size difference between right and left is hard enough. The difficulty increases when trying to figure out what kind of shoes will go with whatever outfit I am trying to pull together. It can be extremely disheartening if I let it. Therefor, I resolved to no longer let it. I decided that I can rock sneakers and flip-flops like a boss any day of the year and that white shell-toed Adidas complimented my wedding dress perfectly.

It did not come easily, but I am proud to say that I am finally acknowledging my new “think” and becoming okay with the fact that, in my world, there is nothing better than comfortable shoes, I stand tall because I am proud of who I am and I AM a Superwoman, even when I’m barefoot!

Laugh And Laugh And Fall Apart

owl laugh

Karma is a funny thing. Laugh too hard at another’s misfortune and it may circle back to restore cosmic balance with a sense of humor in tow.

I cannot recall when, but I once read another story written by a girl who did the very same thing that I did. After all was said and done, I wondered if I may have laughed just a little too hard at her account of the dreadful events. Then again, she wrote the story for the world to see so that people could laugh. So, I suppose it is only fitting that I should share my mishap as well, letting others who may have experienced a similar incident know that they are not alone. Let’s face it; sometimes our brains straight up fall out of our heads. And I find that the best way to cope when it happens is just to throw my head back and laugh…. after I’ve finished gagging.

To say that the day started out as a normal day would be a marginally dishonest. It was normal in the sense that I woke up to the sound of an alarm and got my 6-year-old fed, dressed and out the door for the bus. It was not normal in the sense that it was the morning after a horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida and my heart was very heavy. As if it wasn’t enough to be distracted by a heart troubled over a broken country, a “friend” arrived for her monthly visit and left me writhing in physical pain as well.

Keeping a baby fed, diapered, safe and happy while in excruciating pain can prove to be quite problematic. Especially when my body’s natural reaction to that level of discomfort is to empty the contents of my stomach continually. This combination of events is dangerous enough even before taking into account any mental distractions that may have me preoccupied on any given day. Physical AND emotional pain at the same time typically creates conditions that are ripe for an epic fiasco. On this particular day, the debacle that ensued did not disappoint.

The baby was having a particularly needy morning and it had been hard to accomplish much of anything between answering his shouts and my frequent dashes to the bathroom to “talk to Ralph about a Buick”. I was still wearing the t-shirt that I slept in the night before with a pair of old striped Christmas sweatpants and a zippered hoodie that was covered in formula and God only knows what else. Before walking my oldest to the bus stop, I had also thrown on the first pair of socks I saw which happened to be knee-length for wearing with boots. My hair was in a messy bun, and not the cute kind that girls spend hours trying to master, but a real honest-to-God mess of knotted hair tied up at the crown of my head. I am pretty sure if there were a picture taken of me that day, it would look like I had been sleeping in a gas station bathroom for at least a week. I needed a shower and I needed sleep but had no time for both. It was the right time for the baby to take a nap but, even though I really needed him to be ready, he was not. I thought that maybe if I just put him in his crib with some toys and the lights on, he would play and a little and give me time to at least wash my face, brush my teeth and change clothes. Instead, he just started yelling. When I say that he was “yelling”, that is exactly what I mean. He was not crying, he was not hurt or hungry or dirty. No, he was just yelling to hear himself yell. It can be funny if I am in a regular state of mind but on this particular day, I had yet to find anything funny at all. Since the yelling had not yet turned to crying or screaming, I decided to try to clean up as best as I could while I could. I scurried into my room and sat on the edge of my bed to take my socks off. A simple task, that is all I needed to accomplish. However, when I grabbed the toe of the sock and gave a quick, hard yank to pull it off, the sock did not budge. I, on the other hand, turned into a human tumbleweed and flipped backwards (and a little to the side), enough that I made a full rotation and rolled right off the bed. Don’t ask me why I didn’t let go of the sock or why I kept pulling at it with all my might through the entire flip. I also don’t know why I was using both hands when one of those hands could have prevented my fall. There I lay on the floor in a full crunch, still pulling at my sock with both hands while I grunted and growled. All of a sudden, the top of the sock must have slipped enough to clear my calf and come flying off…. right toward my face. Both fists, still clutching the offending sock, cracked me square on the nose. My eyes filled with tears and nostrils started to burn. I touched my nose to make sure it was not bleeding and then pulled myself up off the floor and back onto the side of the bed. I looked at my other foot and slowly rolled the sock from the top down to my ankle and pulled it off without further incident.

“YA YA YA YA YA YA YA YA”

The baby was still awake, but also still in yell mode so I decided to try another task. Still sniffling and rubbing my eyes, I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth. While turning the water on, I heard the first high-pitched shriek that let me know I was running out of time. Snatching the top off the tube of toothpaste, I smeared it onto my toothbrush and stuck it under the water. And then it happened. I put the toothbrush up to my mouth and started to scrub my front teeth… with diaper rash cream.

I have no way of delineating which hit me first as it was a full assault on my senses. Throwing the toothbrush into the sink, I felt my lips retract back as far as they could while my body prepared to eject the foreign horror. There is only one other exit when the mouth is full of saliva and the throat will not allow passage. There I am I my bathroom, mouth wide open, lips curled, drool running down my chin and hear the baby’s shrieking becoming more and more insistent. I knew it was the wrong idea, but I could not come up with anything else as quickly as was necessary so I started trying to wash the cream off with my finger and water.

I scrubbed furiously, frantically adding toothpaste with water and scrubbing some more. To my horror, my teeth became slimier and slimier. If that was not bad enough, the water was starting to bead up on them like I had gargled with Rain-X. A mix of drool, toothpaste, diaper rash cream and water was leaking steadily out of my mouth, running down my chin and soaking into the front of my shirt.

Anyone that has ever had dental impressions done knows the feeling of having a mouth full of plaster and feeling like it is running down the throat. It is the same feeling with diaper rash cream. No matter how much I spat or drooled, it still felt like my throat was filling up and being coated with the slick grease which initiated vicious retching. With each heave, my body pitched wildly. Though there was nothing in my stomach to expel, my body was behaving as if there was plenty so I struggled to calm my system. Bending over my sink, I tried to think of what would remove something greasy that I could also put in my mouth and just kept coming up blank.

I must sheepishly admit that it did take me this long to figure out what I needed most to get this revolting torture under control. Short of sloshing some bleach around in my mouth, no toothpaste or mouthwash was going to end the madness. The Eureka! moment was bubbling to the surface when it was halted by the angered screams of a neglected 9-month-old.

“OH MY GOD, WHY ARE YOU NOT ASLEEP YET???”

Yep, I screamed it…. only I tried to scream it without closing my mouth or letting my lips touch my teeth so it sounded more like, “AH EYE AHH! EYE AH OO OT AH-SEE EH??”

I really am pretty intelligent, most of the time. But shouting back to the baby wasn’t one of the smartest decisions I’ve made. In fact, the whole morning was turning out to be like a blooper reel highlighting some of my dumbest moments to date. So, it should have been no surprise that my acknowledgement of the baby’s shouts would send him into hysterics. Even our parrot was bothered by the ordeal and started screaming back at the baby, turning already nerve-wracking circumstances into the best climate for nurturing the growth of a migraine.

Finally, the light in my brain flickered on and I spun around to grab a fresh washcloth out of the closet. I spit into the sink again and started scrubbing my teeth with the dry washcloth. I did my best to ignore the battle of baby versus bird outside the bathroom door and scrub as fast and efficiently as possible. I finally felt the surface of my teeth returning to normal but the taste would not leave. It was stuck in my cheeks, my tongue, my throat and my nostrils and no matter how clean I seemed to get my teeth, that taste/smell would not dissipate. I am sure that some would say, “well, at least diaper rash cream doesn’t smell that bad!” Those people have clearly never smelled it from INSIDE their noses and can take my word for it when I say there is a vast difference. Thankful that we never throw away the free toothbrushes that come from the dentist, I broke out a fresh one and brushed my teeth with baking soda and water. Then I gargled with Listerine three times. It wasn’t muted, but the volume had been turned down enough that I was ready to take care of my screaming child whom I had abandoned in his crib less than ten minutes before.

I looked in the mirror where I saw what looked like a toddler after an epic temper tantrum and resigned myself to leaving everything “as is” for the time being. My hair stuck out in all directions, framing a perfectly swollen and red nose. Through bloodshot watery eyes, I saw streaks of quickly drying toothpaste/diaper rash cream across my cheeks and a shirt soaked with drool. I turned off the light and trudged to the baby’s room to deal with him.

I knew he was overtired and just needed to calm down enough to fall asleep but as all moms know, that is not always an easy feat. I took a deep breath, braced myself and walked into his room. He looked up at me from his crib, alligator tears falling from his pink cheeks. The minute he saw me, he froze. He did a slow intake, like a teenage girl, sizing up new competition from head to toe. I stiffened in trepidation, waiting for the wailing to resume. All of a sudden, he smiled from ear to ear, just a wide-open mouth and two little teeth. I picked him up and he just kept grinning at me. I started to rock him back and forth and that little bugger just yawned and drifted off to sleep.

I lay him back in his crib and tip-toed out of his room, pulling the door closed behind me. Back in my own bedroom, my gaze fell on an innocent boot sock, laying on the floor by my bed where I had dropped it a few minutes earlier. Exhausted, I plopped down on the side of my bed and started to laugh. I laughed so hard that I started crying, then I snorted. And that started the laughing all over again.