***

Ok, so.

After my post yesterday, I felt really good. Scared, but good.

Then, last night, I woke up at 1am, remembered what I wrote… and wanted to punch myself in the face.

But, then, I woke up this morning and I felt positive again. There is something about the morning that always brings optimism no matter the situation. It’s almost as if the sun comes up and sprays glitter on everything.

Or, it’s the coffee.

It’s probably the coffee.

So… I went to my dresser and with optimal enthusiasm, I grabbed my cutest sports bra and my most comfortable workout pants… (By the way, is there a new appropriate term for workout pants? Are they all considered yoga pants now? I’ve lost all confidence in my ability to speak since my teenager told me “sweat pants” are now called “joggers.”)

Anyway, I stripped down to nothing, looked myself in the mirror and thought, Ok, this may not be too bad.  Dehydration apparently has it’s benefits, because I woke up with a somewhat flat stomach. I think I can do this! 

And then I put the bra and pants on and whaaaat…. the…. fuuuuuu…..?!

Are all sports bras constricting like this? Was mine always like this? Why is it so tight?! And why are my pants so tight around the waist?!  Basically, my top and bottom are working together to push everything out the middle like a spiteful twenty-pound mound of bread dough.

I am a balloon with two rubber bands tied around each end. That’s what I feel like.

Why can’t they make a sports bra and yoga pants that suck everything up into their respective areas?!  Something that sticks to and stretches your body in a sort of Gumby effect, so that your stomach is left taut and flat.

WHY?!

Ok, focus…

I took the photos and I promise you that they are unedited. Didn’t touch a thing – just uploaded them to my laptop. I’m not happy with the selections, but the one super clear shot I had – also had a completely naked four-year old running directly behind me. (She couldn’t get her onesie pajamas back up after using the bathroom and so she just abandoned them altogether after apparently realizing how wonderful being naked feels as you’re running around your mom’s bedroom while she’s trying to take a very emotionally traumatic photo).

#momlife

So… a few things before we get to the photos:

Potential Judgers: As I said yesterday, this is solely my plan and my journey. I realize I’m physically bigger than some and I realize I’m physically smaller than some. But, again, this is my story. We come in all shapes and sizes and each person gets to decide which size they feel their most comfortable in.  I am not comfortable right now (and I am 100% not in my comfort zone showing these photos), and so I’m doing something about it. For my health… and for my vanity (not gonna lie).

Potential Sponsors: I have already received an offer from a sponsor (isn’t the blog world amazing?) since my post yesterday to strictly use their program/products on this journey.  I am not interested in doing one particular program during this self-challenge, but thank you! If you have a product that I can trial test briefly (not the duration), I will be happy to use it/review it. But please keep in mind: I will be 100% honest in my experience/review and I will also not review something that I have no interest in or that I think could harm me (or my readers).

Potential Exhibitionists:  If you look at my photos and think, I, too, would like to put myself out there and possibly resemble a busted can of biscuits for the world to see, let me know!  Although I am not following a particular program – or starting/joining any groups – I would be more than happy to also show your “current photos” if you think this will also keep you accountable or catapult you into bravery. (Don’t worry, I can use fake names and we don’t have to show your face.)

Sooo…. here we go…. weighing in at a lovely 149 pounds, at 5’3”…. (man, I am really putting it all out there)…. I present…..

Moi:

*I seriously had to triple-check those photos and make sure Ivy’s naked little butt wasn’t camouflaged anywhere.

So, there you have it. Me. I’ll take photos again in a couple weeks. I’ll post occasionally on my progression/regression/depression/oppression.

I will not only post on my new fitness/weight loss journey. That can get real old, real quick. For everyone. This is going to be a here and there thing, I promise.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!  I’d love to say I’m having a bottle of wine to forget this whole thing, but I’m detoxing and am forced to remember every last detail.

xo,

Jen

p.s. – I hope you enjoy this post and the photos – much like you enjoyed the post where I bought and reviewed the Instant Pot, because none of you would buy it yourselves and told me to take one for the team and let you know if I lived without blowing up my house.

p.p.s – You’re all just the worst.

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***

There are two words that are banned from my house.  If you know me, you’re having a smug moment, aren’t you? You think you know exactly what two words those are.  Well, I have news for you. They are NOT moist and panties.

(I just watched a small mass of hives appear on my wrist from typing them though.)

But, no.

The two words that I hate more than anything are… fat and ugly.

I know, I know. That sounds all self-righteous and cumbaya of me, right? But it’s the honest truth. I have always hated them. And not in the jokey way that everyone hates moist (although, I really, really strongly dislike that word). I mean it in a serious way. I automatically cringe when I hear people use those words to describe people. I have this automatic reaction of inner-disgust.

There is just something so nasty about calling people ugly or fat.  I don’t mind the words when they are used to describe someone’s personality (though that really only pertains to ugly…). But, when they are used to specifically describe a person’s physical appearance, I’m instantly revolted. It’s such an openly direct and intentionally cruel thing.

So, lately, I’m ashamed to say that although I haven’t said those two words out loud – I have been thinking them in my head: about myself.

I’m not going to get into the whole body-image thing here again. Blah, blah, blah – we all know I have issues. LOTS of issues… But I’ve been thinking of doing something bold about it once and for all. Putting myself out there and holding myself accountable in a way I’ve never done before.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to post a BEFORE, no, CURRENT photo of me in my yoga pants and sports bra (yep!) and document my progress (or lack thereof) on this new healthy journey.

Warts and all.
No photoshopping.
No good angles.
Me, straight on.

We all know that I have body issues and I’m also very vain. I don’t like “unauthorized” photos of me floating around on Facebook. I secretly delete photos of me on my husband’s Flickr account that I don’t like (I’m sorry, honey – I promise I won’t do it again).  I have become an expert at dressing to camouflage my most troubled areas.  But, truth be told, I’m tired of hiding and masking my body out of insecurity. I’m sick to death of cropping my bottom half out of photos, so that people won’t see what I’m truly working with.

I parade around on this blog and and try to empower us all to see ourselves as beautiful and strong and all the while I’m cropping my body seven ways ’til Sunday so no one truly sees me.

Truth: I talk about empowerment all of the time – but I still fail miserably with it in so many ways.

So… I’m going to do something that absolutely terrifies me. (It’s literally making me nauseous just thinking about it.)  Today – without a plan in place – I woke up and decided to start taking care of myself fully.  In fact, as I type this, I’m wheezing.  Fortunately, it’s not from the flu. I was just on the treadmill for twenty-five minutes.  I’ve also started the Whole30 again as a good start-up to detox.

I’m going solo here, guys. I’m not starting a group. I’m selfishly focusing on myself and my own achievements and failures. And my plan is to be brutally honest every step of the way. There will be progressive photos (and, very likely, regressive photos). There will be bad days where I cry about pizza – or eat it and simply own it.  I have no idea how this is going to go, truthfully.  But it will be 100% honest, I promise you that.

And, selfishly, I am asking a few things from you as well:

  • You can judge my methods all you want – but keep it to yourself. What works for you – or what you think is the only way to get healthy – may not work for me. So, though I’d love for you to follow along and watch – I don’t want advice, unless I specifically ask for it.
  • You can judge my body all you want – but keep it to yourself.  If writing publicly has taught me one thing, it’s that I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. (And also that everyone thinks I’m writing specifically about them…).  People may look at my photo tomorrow and think either, “Eww,” or “Ugh, she’s not even that big.”  Guess what? I don’t care what you think!  (Ok, that’s a total lie. I care too much what you think.) But, I don’t want your feedback on my current situation – especially positive feedback right now. Although it’s lovely if you think I “look great” no matter what, I’m the one who is uncomfortable right now and Richard Simmons himself could not perk me up at this current state.
  • You can judge this plan of blogging all you want – but keep it to yourself (And, perhaps, stop reading my blog. Just a thought…)

This may not seem like a big deal to you. This is a very big deal to me. In fact, once I hit publish on this – there’s no going back, right?  Y’all can expect to see my pasty white 43-year old body in full glory tomorrow… (well, not full glory).

Bottom line, I have to start walking the walk on self-care. I want to teach my girls to love themselves, but I also want to teach them to strive to be the very best versions of themselves health-wise. And I clearly have a lot of work in that area to do myself.

I don’t need to be thin, but I need to be comfortable with myself.  And maybe putting myself out there like this will (finally) push me to acknowledge my flaws and change what I can.

I have to go. My watch just told me to stand up. (She is seriously so pushy…)

Sh*t… am I really going to hit “publish” on this….?

xo,

Jen

 

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***

I want you all to know what I was thinking about as I lay in bed last night.

Why has no one invented spray-on wrapping paper?  Like, you could spray it on all the presents in one easy swoop – and then it just peels off when people unwrap.

As you can tell, we brought in 2018 like rockstars.

So, we have another holiday card on the books and I have to admit, 2017 was tough. Every idea we came up with seemed too snarky – or we knew would greatly offend at least some.  And truthfully, our goal is to make people laugh – not rage.  (Though I did have one idea that still makes Brian laugh out loud and he was really out of sorts when I squashed it… it involved bending the knee. That’s all I’ll say.) But this year, it was so hard to find that fine line between satire and disgust.  In fact, my vote was that we not do one at all.  But then, as we drove one night to pick Hannah up from dance, I told Brian not to talk to me until I came up with something – and by the time we reached our destination, I had it. It’s certainly not our most clever, but I think it’s a nice poke at the current state of affairs – and we truly do look forward to a more inspiring 2018.

Which brings me to my next point: I’m going to rock the hell out of 2018, I’ve decided.

Remember last year when I declared 2017 the Year of No?  Well, that worked out fine and it actually did feel good to just decline things I wasn’t interested in rather than dread the participation. But, truthfully, my foot injury put me out of commission for half of the year on most things anyway, so it wasn’t really hard to turn down things, because I had no choice.  So, that brings me to my current state of mind: I actually no longer want to say no.

It’s amazing the drive you get when you have no choice but to sit at home. I have never really craved working out – until I wasn’t able to. Also, sitting around for so long this summer really made me realize how completely inactive and unsocial I was becoming before the injury.  I wanted to slap myself for being so lazy when I had the ability to do so much!

So… guess what? I’m going to flip things on their head and proclaim 2018 as the Year of Yes!  Actually, I’ve already started. The last month or so has been the Month of Yes. (I’m pretty sure my friend Jen is still shocked that I followed through and met her for a workout session with her personal trainer. Thank you, Jen, for never giving up on me!).

I’m saying yes to optimism without the fear of being blindsided by something horrible.

(Can I get an Amen! from my fellow anxiety friends on that one?)

I’m saying yes to lunches and brunches and dinners and drinks with friends. Hell, I even had a brunch date recently with a girl I (have never actually) met on Instagram. She’s super cool and from Chicago as well!

Thank you for not being a psycho and murdering me, Marla.

You can take the girl out of anxiety…

I vow to say yes to the things that will benefit my mind and body.  I’m saying yes to enjoying the moment without the doom of “this shall pass” hovering over my head like an ominous cloud of warning. (Again, my anxiety friends will understand this…)

I’m saying yes to positivity. And, while my snarky little self will still be lurking (I mean, she’s kind of fun, right?), I vow to jump in head first without thinking of the 541 ways I could be killed, maimed…or bored.

I vow to bring back the carefree Jen.

(Well, within reason… I am a mother now, for God’s sake. Don’t be asking me to hit The Drink on Thursday nights in Chicago.)

Ok, so let’s do this! (See how I just roped you into this, too?)  Don’t blame me. Blame my friends Robb and Jenna. They both inspired me to say yes to more.*

*So, if this doesn’t work out and we all end up in a Mexican prison doing 15 to life, let’s blame them.

Happy New Year!

xo,

Jen

 

 

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***

When my dad was a small boy, a (questionable) man in his very small town went missing. As my father tells it, the town siren went off and the townspeople all gathered to find out what the fuss was about. After learning the man was missing, they then formed search parties. My dad – again, a small boy – participated in the search and ended up at the home of the missing man with others. At one point, a police officer lifted my dad up to the attic opening and instructed him to take a look and tell them if he saw anything.

In my own father’s words, “I was the only one small enough to fit in the opening, so the officer hoisted me up there and asked me if I saw anything. I looked around and told them ‘no’.”   Whenever my dad re-tells this part of the story, he always adds, as if an afterthought, “I think back to that now, and I think, ‘That was it? They believed me and that was that? What if I missed something?'”

However, my immediate thought (as well as every other normal human being) is always WHAT IF THE QUESTIONABLE MISSING MAN WAS UP THERE DEAD AND THEN YOU NEEDED LIFELONG THERAPY TO GET OVER WHAT YOU JUST SAW?! 

But that’s just me. And all of you.

Oddly enough, this is not the only search party story my dad has told me. There’s another that involves his friend who went missing. But, as it turns out, the boy wasn’t actually missing at all. In fact, the boy stumbled upon his own search party, and joined it – hoping he’d help them find whoever they were looking for.

I am not making this sh*t up. 

Show of hands, please. How many of your parents have similar stories? Is this, like, a thing? Or am I just #blessed… ?

The stories of Mark (the small town where my dad grew up) have all become classics. We hear them over and over again – and, yet, they never stop being entertaining.  Mark is a small mining town built on Italian immigrants and when we all gather there, the nostalgia is thick – you inhale it into your lungs with every laugh and every story.

And the memory of every person who lived there.

***

It’s during the holidays that I miss my Grandmother Hilda more than ever. I cook more, for one, and when I sauté garlic in a pan for whatever dish I’m making, the smell instantly brings a vivid flash of walking into my grandparents’ home as a child after the three hour drive to get there. She would instantly start feeding us – usually with homemade tortellini in broth.  Of all the people I’ve known and lost, my grandmother’s voice is still the clearest.  She is as present in my mind as if she was sitting next to me this moment. She loved you hard, literally.  And as much as we tried to escape her forceful kisses and embrace back then, I think I would give anything to feel it again just once. In fact, not long ago, my mom told me that I kiss and hug Ivy like Grandma kissed us. I’m not sure if she necessarily meant it as a compliment, but I will wear that fierce love like a badge of honor.

It’s funny how certain people leave a particular imprint on your soul.  I wouldn’t say that I was closer to my grandmother than any of my siblings. We didn’t share some unique bond. And I wasn’t there as I should have been when her health started to fail. For that, I have no excuse other than I have yet to learn how to get my own sadness out of the way in order to be there for others.

I am a coward and I am working on that.

And yet, I idolized this woman. She was not perfect.  But… she knew herself.  She didn’t make apologies for who she was.

Let me say that again, because it is what I admired the most about her: she didn’t make apologizes for who she was.

She just was.

I’ve spent the last few months wading into a small pond of quiet self-reflection. I have dissected the things I most hate about myself. I am finding more and more peace with the imperfections as well as the motivation to change the things about myself I refuse to accept.

And, lately, when I start to overthink, as I always do, I say to myself, “What would Grandma say to me right now?”   I don’t do this because my Grandmother was some kind of Italian yoda.  I do it, because, in most cases, she would say, “Oh dio me… Jennifer! Make me laugh!” as she threw her head back and sniffed in amused annoyance.

Translation: Snap out of it, you little sh*t.

So, in the spirit of Hilda, my goal is to be myself with no apologies. Truly, now. It’s been an inner battle of mine for years, I know. But it’s funny how when you start to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you, you become gentler with yourself, kinder – and more forgiving.  And for those who don’t love me… I can’t change their perception of me. I can’t change their annoyances with the things I do. I am who I am.

I can be annoyingly cheerful and talkative.

I can be annoyingly quiet and shut down.

I embrace the holidays a little too enthusiastically – and, for some, a little too early.

I’m obsessed with pretty decor and pretty fashion and pretty cooking and pretty baking.

I take lots of photos of pretty decor and pretty fashion and pretty cooking and pretty baking.

And yes, I take photos of meals I make when I’m proud of them!

The things I am working to change about myself are the things that hurt myself or others.  The things that I refuse to change about myself are the things that hurt no one.

So, in the spirit of my past Chuck it! post, which seemed to resonate with many of you, let’s all embrace our inner-Hilda.

Embrace yourself – and all the imperfections. Work on changing the things about yourself that don’t make you feel good. And stop worrying about anyone who picks away at who you are just because it’s not who they are.

As Hilda would say, “They can stir that polenta all they want…”

No one can break your spirit but you.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

xo,

Jen

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***

I haven’t turned on the television since yesterday morning.

I know that may seem cowardly, but I can’t watch one more minute of newsmen and women dissecting every detail and playing the same footage over and over. And the reason I can’t watch anymore is not so much because I don’t want to see it and learn more about what happened. It’s that the more they play horrific footage and have witnesses come in or call in and explain every moment in detail, I am afraid that my mind will become even more desensitized than it already is.

The more I hear, the more it all sounds the same. It’s excruciating horror. Yet, it’s not an unexpected or surprising horror.

That is not cold or callous or unfeeling: that is a fact.

This is our new norm. Except that it’s not really new, is it? The number is new. The number of people dead is new. Is that what we’re going for now? Broken records?

I don’t want to talk about gun control. (Not here, anyway.) I don’t want to talk about the politics of gun control. I don’t want to hear about evil people doing evil things. And, frankly, as lovely a sentiment as “thoughts and prayers” is, it may as well be an auto:reply on your out of office email at this point. It’s become a blanket statement that we readily have available in pre-created memes.

Because this is our new norm.

We live in the land of instant gratification and instant access. Even our condolences are fucking pre-fabricated and lazy.

I’ve been sitting here the last 24-hours trying to focus on the good, the helpers. I’ve sat here and thought hard about what action I can take – about what I can do from home, within my own family. I can’t control the world. I can control the dynamic our family is built on and help our kids learn the strength, kindness and bravery they will need to maneuver through this new world.

I can also feel anger and loathing toward the man who did this – while not allowing it to change me or how I feel about people, in general. Because, I am learning, that is a choice that I need to make in every aspect of my life: not to let the hardness of others bruise the soft spots of my own skin.

Just a week ago, after experiencing anger at the actions of others – and anger at my lack of response to their actions, I reminded myself who I am: I am not that person.  I will not let the terrible actions of others change the softness or sensitivity of my being. I tell our daughters on a nearly weekly basis: be better, not bitter.  And, this last week in particular, I had to tell it to myself over and over.

So, it is our intent to be soft and kind and good, while being smart and strong and brave. We will not view sensitivity as a weakness, just as we won’t view hatred as incurable. Terrible things will happen because of terrible people. I will not allow that poison to spread like a disease in my own home and not only affect how my children see the world, but also affect how inclined they are to change it for the better.

You can sit and discuss how the world is going haywire and our country is in shambles. But you can also figure out ways to fix it while you’re here – even if it’s by taking small steps in your own home.

Because though “thoughts and prayers” are a lovely sentiment, I’m pretty sure whomever we are praying to would like to see a little more action on our end as well.

xo,

Jen

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Her dad gives me the same look.

***

What’s happening? What’d I miss? What’s going on?

Scratch that. I don’t want to know.

My little Facebook moratorium has been pretty dang successful (by my standards) and I have to admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Once you get through the first few days and you no longer have the shakes/hallucinations, it gets much easier!  Plus, did you know there’s a whole world out there that you don’t have to even check into or take photos of when you go?!

I. Had. No. Idea.

And all this extra time I have?  So much time!  I mean, I could go on and on…

So, just let me.

Go on and on…

***

Five things you find more time for when you stay off Facebook for a month:

1/ Sexually harassing your husband.
I didn’t necessarily forget how much I love my husband, but I may have been distracted by social media enough that he wasn’t getting the true attention he deserves. Now I like to spend my days sending him suggestive texts while he’s at work and making inappropriate advances when he’s doing mundane tasks around the house. So far, I think he enjoys it. That said, I may also be one ass-slap away from a lawsuit if I don’t slow my roll.

2/ Liking people again.
I totally forgot that I actually like people. For awhile there, after seeing the 700th re-post of a (fake) photo of Osama bin Laden shaking hands with Hillary Clinton, I seriously started to lose real faith in humanity – and basic intelligence. But then… I got off Facebook. And it was magical. I would venture outside and there were wonderful real-live people walking around. They would smile and say hello – and not even one of them wanted to talk about the president, or try to spoil Game of Thrones, or even tell me five hundred ways I might die from a scented flyer left on my car at the gas station.

People are awesome in real life.  (Well, most of them…)

3/ Re-arranging and revamping your entire house.
Due to my foot injury and nothing to peruse on Facebook, I started to be more aware of my surroundings. And my surroundings started to irritate me. So, within a one week span, I re-arranged my furniture and then put all the furniture back where it was. I took down the giant buffalo photos and made a 10′ wood photo ledge. I replaced a few rugs, moved around the old rugs. And basically, I shifted everything on the first floor. All with the help, of course, of my super hot husband who I generously rewarded with some whistles and more ass-slapping.

(I swear, he really does like it. I had him sign an affidavit.)

4/ Documentary binges.
I am pretty confident that I now know more about the Roosevelt administrations than the Roosevelts knew about the Roosevelt administrations. Ask me anything about Queen Elizabeth’s entire family going back five generations and I will accept that question and raise you a House Windsor bonus round. When I found myself reciting the dialogue along with the narrator on my 14th Kennedy series, I decided to hang it up for awhile – and began watching Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce.  Which, by the way, made my husband slightly nervous. Until I assured him with a pinch that I was still totally into him – and then told him to make me a turkey sandwich.

I’m totally kidding. I don’t even like turkey sandwiches.

5/ Missing everyone.
I know. It’s so sweet, right? It’s also a lie. Kind of. I’m sorry. I do miss seeing all of the sweet faces and photos – and the positive, happy posts people shoot out in the universe with the optimism of a kitten rolling in a basket full of endless yarn. You know what I don’t miss?  Everything else. I love reading and watching the news and not hearing the chatter of opinions. I love being blissfully unaware of every dissected (and usually unverified) way my child can be harmed, maimed or kidnapped.  And you know what I definitely don’t miss on Facebook?

ME on Facebook.

Seriously. I annoyed myself.

So, I think I have finally kicked the habit. I wasn’t an addict, but I was definitely an abuser. And life truly has been so much more peaceful. I’m not saying I’ll never be on there. Think of me more as a silent partner. Truth is, I’ve been on a few times and I’ve gotten quickly bored, so I logged off again. And I’ve found that if you keep the app off your phone, you kind of lose interest altogether.

Just some tips if you’re thinking of trying this (blissful) endeavor…

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to post the link to this on Facebook so you’ll see it and then I have to go hit up my husband for some extra attention.

Oh, sweet, sweet irony.

xo,

Jen

 

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***

Two posts in two days. My head must be spinning…

The truth is I’m going through a bit of manic anxiety. I don’t even know if that’s a thing, but that is how I feel right now. My moods are swinging very high and very low – more often low, and I have a pent up energy that is screaming from my stomach to throat, trying to escape the cell block of my mind.

My foot injury and inability to walk or drive has left me a lot of time to live inside my head. In these long hours, I’ve had a lot of time to think about… everything. Brian and I have had long talks – more than we’ve ever had before – about what happiness looks like to us. We both (luckily) seem to have the same idea: mindfulness.

Mindful of the moment we are in right now.

My anxiety stems from the future. The unknown. It also stems from my inability to sympathize rather than empathize, which may sound confusing, but it’s a paralyzing realization that stunts me from actually helping people, because I am so consumed with the sadness and fear of their situation.

Forums like Facebook are so complicated for me. I want to see how people are doing – or I will hop on out of boredom or a break from my day, and then I will see posts that fill me with sadness/anger/irritation.  I then go through a cycle of avoiding social media and then feel guilt that I have hurt someone by missing their birthday or a special occasion… It is so ridiculous and yet, it’s how I’m programmed.

Time for some deprogramming.

Mindfulness. Being present. Being positive. Being kind. Being of help.

These are the things that we are going to focus on here for the time being.

I will still be writing – likely, much more. Writing is actually more of a selfish release for me than for anyone else (I’m sorry…). And I will be on Instagram, because taking photos and viewing other’s are also things I genuinely enjoy without the pressure of interaction or the forced noise of Facebook. Find me here on Instagram and I’ll find you.

I won’t, however, be sharing links to blog posts on Facebook after this. My personal account and my blog page will be inactive. So, if you’d like to receive blog notifications, please sign up for the email notifications.

I have “quit” Facebook before. Unsuccessfully. I’m going to try it again.

For my own sanity.

xo,

Jen

 

***

Brian took the girls to the city for the day and night and so I have had the house to myself for over 24 hours. I had grand plans of doing all the things that a mom thinks she’ll do with such freedom, but instead I sat in front of the television the entire day and night in a saddened daze.

How is this possible?

How is it possible that in the year 2017, I am having archaic conversations with my children that my grandparents had to have 60 years ago with my parents?

How is that possible?

In the last 24 hours, I have been consumed with the sadness and fear – and realization – that we will be fighting this battle over bigotry and racism as parents until the day we die. And then our children will be fighting it with their children. Because these horrific people will always exist. And the real sadness comes in that they exist in not only large ways – groups marching down a street filled with hate – but in small ways that seep in slowly like a methodical poison.

A racist joke, an off-handed comment, a generalization… these all chip away at everything we are trying to teach our children. Brian and I can drill into our girls over and over the absolute importance of equality and love – and it will take one fucking idiot with a racist joke to plant a seed of doubt.

Do you understand that?

A friend posted yesterday, “Where is the outrage now from the many of you who very loudly [criticized and mocked] the Women’s march?” – a peaceful march of four million people.  And his question could not be more on point.  How quickly your energy for outrage has vanished. And don’t tell me it’s because you don’t feel the need to “acknowledge” a small group of white supremacists. That “small” group of hate marched down a city street and reminded us of what is still out there. That “small” group of terrorists (say it, Mr. President) proudly affirmed all the quiet hate that is still swarming in this country.

Quiet hate.

That is what this country is filled with. The people with the small, “off-color” jokes. The people who say “them” and “those people.” The people who completely miss the point of Black Lives Matter.  And sadly, just reading “Black Lives Matter” in this post will instantly either turn people off or put them on the defensive. Somehow they believe that saying “Black Lives Matter” is saying no other lives matter.  I have news for you. Your white life has always fucking mattered. It has mattered so much that there has never been a fucking question of it mattering.

How do people not understand that?!

Me writing this is not jumping on a soapbox or an exercise in self-righteousness.  I am a white suburban mom and I will never, ever understand what it must feel like to know that if my black child goes missing, she will fall into a secondary importance of a white child who has gone missing on the same day.  When is the last time you saw a Dateline episode or even the nightly news report on a missing black child?

I will never understand how it feels to know that if my child were shot walking down the street, the outrage, if any, would last a day and then be buried along with her.

I won’t truly understand the fear of a mother who watches the news and sees a parade of grown men and women proudly carrying hateful signs that tell my children they don’t belong – that this is not their country.

I don’t pretend to understand how any of this must feel.

I do know this. If my child, sister, friend or neighbor came to me with her heart in her hands and said, “It has been bruised and broken for years – and no one can help me,” I would not then pull out my perfectly beating heart and say, “Well, my heart matters, too.”

There is loud hate on the streets. There is even quieter hate slowly filling the small spaces surrounding us. In those small spaces, our children are watching and listening.

So, we will teach our kids what all sides represent.

And we will also make damned sure they know which side is filled with blatant hate.

 

***

 

When I was about four years old, I came down with a nasty bout of pneumonia. I was hospitalized for a good while. I don’t know if I remember it all happening or if I’ve heard the stories so many times that I think I’m remembering. There is always an overlapping haze with moments like this. My mom has always said she’ll never forget my dad rushing into the house from work and leaping up the stairs to get me when they knew it was bad. I remember – or I was told – there was a giant tent over me in the hospital bed.

However, there are three things I do have specific memories of regarding this event:

  1. My dad’s college friend sent me a giant purple elephant with crayons in its front pocket, and I loved that purple elephant more than anything.
  2. The nurses gave me a (very old-fashioned) bell to ring when I needed something from them.
  3. The day after receiving the bell, it was taken away from me.

Apparently, I exhibited blatant abuse of the bell.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t ring the bell because I needed anything from them. I rang the bell so that they would come and talk to me.

I just wanted to chit-chat! I mean, who doesn’t want to sit and opine about life with a four-year old who’s stuck under a plastic canopy of refreshing clean air?!  I’m sure I had plenty of riveting things to say.

Their loss.

Eventually, I did get out of the hospital (quite obviously) and I didn’t need a bell to get attention at home. My little siblings greeted me with arms outstretched and waited on me and my purple elephant for endless days and nights.

Scratch that. It is a complete lie and I just made that up as I typed. But doesn’t it sound sweet?

I’m sure my family did take care of me quite well. And if they didn’t take care of me, I know they at least listened to me chatter.

These are my people.

So, here I am again… years and years later. I’ve had quite a few hospital run-ins in the last decade and since my appendectomy was about three years ago, I was due again. This time, I’ve done quite the number on my foot, of all things. I don’t want to rehash the whole story. Cliff note version: I was standing on a stool to get a shot of the girls and I fell off in the most unique way possible – thereby tearing apart the base of what holds your whole damn foot together.

The shot that did me in.

 

I had surgery last week and I’ve got a bit of a road to recovery ahead of me – though it could always, always be worse – and so I’m learning patience (at a snail pace).  And I’m also remembering (not that I need a reason to) why I love my family so much.

To my brother Ryan: thank you for the virtual exam (over FaceTime) and determining this may be a Lisfranc injury  – after it was not healing and had been misdiagnosed at the ER (not their fault, very common misdiagnosis). Thank you also for keeping your poker face on and cheerfully telling me to call a specialist “for peace of mind” when you likely knew the whole time I was going to need surgery. You knew exactly how to handle me (for real). And thank you for answering all of my calm (read: hysterical) texts in a dignified and soothing way (so as not to spook the crazy person).

Thank you also, Ryan, for telling me that you love me dearly, but I am the worst kind of patient. I needed to hear that. I’m so glad we’re in this together!

Ryan…?

Ryan…?

(Why is he running from me?)

Wasn’t taking any chances before surgery.

 

To my sister Michelle, thank you for listening patiently while I had a psychotic break over the phone during the uncertainty and frustration. As I went from laughing to crying to saying “it could be worse” to complaining to apologizing for complaining, you handled me like a pro. And for finally yelling, “Complain! You can complain! This fricken sucks!”  

To my brother Curtis, thank you for the spontaneous and hideous SnapChat videos of you and the check-ins. I love you, chicken.

To my dad – the first doctor in the family – thank you for your completely random (yet entertaining) selfies showing me how high the corn is coming in this year. And then following that text a day later with a huge, rambling rant of what drug I need to call in for pain and how people wouldn’t even let their horses walk around like this and this is “completely unacceptable in this odeon age.”

And thank you for then following up that text with the definition of “odeon.”  (Which I have since looked up and can’t confirm anywhere, but this does not surprise me as you once referred to the Taj Mahal as the Menage A Trois.)

#dadselfies

 

To my mama: who has swooped in – once again – to save the day. I swear to God, you eat pot-brownies for breakfast. I can find no other way to explain your complete calm and constant cheeriness. You play with Ivy for hours on end and happily go about picking up and letting the dogs out and catering to your child (me) – with not a bell in sight. You are a hybrid of Mary Poppins and Florence Nightingale… on steroids. I don’t deserve you.

To my husband – who has pulled so many all-nighters in the last three weeks trying to get work done while holding this house down in between traveling – you have proven yourself tenfold. I know this is so hard for you.

To Hannah, thank you for being one of the two best kids on earth! Thank you for taking care of your sister when you’re here and for surprising me with a clean bedroom to sleep in. You amaze me over and over, kid – and I love you to the moon and back.

To all of the family and friends (who knew) and have checked in and offered help, you are AWESOME and I love and appreciate you so much.

It seems like a silly thing – maybe minor, to some. (Look up Lisfranc injuries here. I like a good challenge and since only 1 in 55k people injure their foot in this particular way, I have outdone myself once again!)  But this has already proven to be a little more daunting than I imagined. I will be off my feet for six weeks and then (hopefully) have a boot for another six weeks. I also decided to up the ante and make sure I injured my right foot – so I won’t be driving any time soon. Taking care of a four-year old and two rowdy dogs while working from home full time in the legal field has always been a bit of an obstacle course. Doing it with one working leg just changed the game in a whole new way.

And… this is not how I wanted to spend the last month or so of summer before my baby begins school. (But I’m not allowing my mind to go there.)

Although surgery recovery has been painful, it is the dependence on others that is the most challenging. I absolutely hate needing help with nearly every single thing right now. Things will be so much better when I can bear a little weight on this puppy. Until then, I’ve bought a very chic knee scooter. So, if you see me rollin’, wave!

***

They didn’t give me a bell this time when I was in the hospital. Had they, I’m sure they would have realized their mistake quickly – just as when I was four. But who needs a bell when you have this family?

They know why the caged bird sings…

She just wants to have a chat, for chrissakes!

xo,

Jen

“This too shall pass.” – Hilda Borri

 

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***

So. This is 43.

Yep.

Forty-effing-three.

Those older than me will tell me how young that is. Those younger than me will cheer me on, like I’m some sort of minor disease survivor – and then mentally push the number down to a place where it can’t touch them. It is so far away, right?

Right.

One of my favorite people called me a few weeks ago, on my birthday, to wish me a happy day. Her words were perfect: “Happy Birthday! I want you to know you’re still relevant.”

She is brilliant. And honest.

We had a long conversation about this number (she will be turning the same age in a few months) – and we are, as many before us, incredulous. Forty three. I want to slap it away from me like a mosquito, but I can’t. It’s a bite that will itch for days, maybe months, maybe perpetually until forty-four kicks it to the curb and slithers into place.

My friend and I laughed over the absurdity. We talked about the not so distant days of being “the young girls in the city.” We discussed how women before us forewarned that at a certain age, we will become invisible.

And we laughed at our arrogance in ignoring it.

“Listen,” I said, “We are intelligent women. We are fully capable and deserving of where we’ve gotten, because we’ve worked hard. But let’s be honest, there have been times, we have gotten by – when maybe we shouldn’t have – due to some sparkle.”

And then we both laughed at the honesty of it.  And, now, the impending end of it.

That party is almost over.

My little brother recently got married. He is nearly a decade younger than the rest of us siblings. The weddings on rotation in my age group are long gone and so I hadn’t been to such a celebration in a long time. It wasn’t until we arrived at the reception that I realized, “Wait. We aren’t the young people at a wedding anymore…” 

When did this happen? WHY didn’t I pay attention?!

I once read an article years ago with actress Ellen Barkin. She was discussing the  inability of so many to age gracefully, the plastic surgery that ends up erasing the proof of life imprinted on our shells. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Stop! Stop doing this! Find something else you like about yourself. This is not all you are made up of.”

Find something else you like about yourself.

I have chanted that on repeat over and over in my head whenever I see a new web of lines around my eyes or a soft spot on my body that was once defined.

Find something else you like about yourself. 

It’s so easy to say – and so hard to do – when you’ve spent years defining yourself as young and… sparkly.

Every birthday, especially in these last few years, has been a gift. I have looked at each year as pure luck that I am still here and so grateful for it. I am not defining my forties as The End.  Not by a long shot! I am saying there’s a shift happening. And I’m feeling it now more than ever.

Call me vain (I am!). Call me superficial (I can be!). Call me whatever you want (trust me, I’ve been called worse!), but this is how I’ve been feeling lately. And I know I’m not alone, because I’ve seen a few articles floating around affirming the same inner struggle.

There are other things I like about myself, Ellen Barkin. I swear there are!  But I’m just having a tough time letting go of a part of myself I enjoyed – and appreciated – that is slowly fading.

And that’s ok. I’m human. We’re all human.

Except maybe you, Gwen Stefani. Seriously, there must be a limitless tap of virgin blood in your house somewhere. HOW are you doing it?!

So. I promise to maneuver this stage as gracefully as humanly possible – and truly try to like as many other things about myself as I can.

(But I’m not above a little Botox… I ain’t going down without a fight.)

xo,

Jen

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