WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Everybody Counts April 6, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:36 am
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(Day 2: Something Someone Told Me About Myself)

In all the craziness of the ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to forget that it’s a census year for the US. Easy to forget until the repeated postcards and reminder letters start piling up, that is. So last week, I finally buckled down and committed to filling out the required information online.

I fired up my laptop, navigated to my2020census.gov, plugged in my access code, and got started. And everything was moving along well for a total of about 60 seconds before I reached the question about my ethnicity.

Easy. White. I’m white. Check. And click next.

ERROR. White isn’t enough. I also must enter my origin. I stare blankly at my screen for a moment, contemplating typing in my standard answer: “European mutt.” But something tells me the federal government wouldn’t be amused with that response so instead I type “unknown.”

ERROR. Not acceptable. I apparently must enter ACTUAL origins. And then the panic started to creep in. I don’t know my origins. What do I put? How will I be counted? Will I be penalized if I’m unable to complete my census? What do people who were adopted enter here?

So I did all I could think of doing. I texted my dad: “Trying to do my census stuff and I don’t know my race. White isn’t good enough. They need to know my ancestry and won’t accept ‘unknown.’ HELP!”

And help came. In an abundance. Complete with color commentary:

“Well, your father was Irish, Scottish, with a touch of English, and your mother was Irish, French, with a touch of German. That’s what I’d tell them. Born under a bad sign, and if not for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all. My maternal grandmother was half French, with 12.5% Canadian Indian. My maternal grandfather was just Irish. My paternal grandfather was Scottish, and my paternal grandmother was Irish. Diabetic bitch. With lotsa alcohol. Both sides, and stubborn as the day is long. Plus tell them, opinionated as hell. Self-righteous sons of bitches, too.”

I back-spaced on “unknown” and considered entering “self-righteous sons of bitches” but instead typed: Irish, Scottish, English, French, German.

There. I’ve been counted.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Happiness is… April 4, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:01 pm
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Life feels a little…overwhelming…right now. Amid the covid-19 outbreak, we’re all dealing with a lot. Life has changed for us all and for me that looks a little like this: On March 12, my daughter came home from school for what would end up being the last time “indefinitely.” On March 20, her daycare closed its doors. On March 23, I began working from home, full-time, while also juggling “home schooling” my first grader. On March 27, my full-time hours were cut drastically. Retail establishments are closed. Restaurants are delivery only. Places of entertainment are closed. Grocery stores are limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside at once. Playgrounds are taped off, unusable. Some days, I have the presence of mind to remind myself that we’re going to be okay. That we’ll get through this. That it won’t last forever and that we’ll all be stronger and more appreciative of the little things when it’s over. And other days, my anxiety gets the best of me, leaving me irritable, despondent, and without any oomph to even get dressed. Today is one of those “other” days.

And while scrolling through Facebook today, I saw a post shared by my cousin (and fellow blogger) Sasha. “30 Day Writing Challenge.” And I’ll admit, part of me thought, “Who starts a 30-day challenge on the fourth of the month?” And then I realized that this post is exactly what my spirit needed today. And surely starting on the fourth isn’t even on the top ten of wacky things going on in the world right now. So here we go. Day 1 of 30. Beginning with…a list of 10 things that make me really happy.

  1. My girl. – She doesn’t realize how much she’s helped me hold things together these past few weeks. When all I want to do is lay in bed and feel sorry for myself, she’s my reason to get up. To cook something. To take a walk. To watch a silly movie or play a kid game. We help each other find balance; work/school and fun. We help each other find levity in every day. I hope someday when she’s older and looks back on this time, she remembers it as a bonding experience. A positive and happy time in her childhood. And I hope someday she realizes that she’s saved me.
  2. My husband. – My second savior. We’ve been together for 20 years, married for 11. He knows how my mind works and can usually help curb my anxiety. Whether it’s giving me some much-needed alone time when he gets home from work, ordering a movie OnDemand to take my mind off things, or talking calmly and logically through difficult conversations, he gets me. I’m thankful that with all the “social distancing,” he’s someone I can still hold tight.
  3. Our home. – I’ve griped about this house for almost as long as we’ve owned it. It’s too small. It’s old and quirky. It sometimes feels too full, like the walls are closing in on me. But you know what? There’s so much love here. We’ve got everything we need to keep us safe and happy inside. Plus a backyard full of activities for our girl…playscape, sandbox, yard games, her bike and scooters. If we have to be quarantined, this is a pretty damn comfortable place to do it. In fact, I recently asked my daughter where is her favorite place to go. I expected her to waver between a few places she loves but that we can’t visit right now…perhaps dance class or the soccer field, bowling, Six Flags, the movie theater. But she surprised me by saying, “Home.”
  4. My sister. – She and I have a lot in common…including anxiety. So when my husband doesn’t quite “get” how I’m feeling, she surely does. She has always been–and continues to be–someone I can call any time, day or night, to vent to. To cry to. To calm me down. I value the friendship we have and that I can say anything at all to her without fear of judgement.
  5. My dad. – I worry about him every day. His age, his health, his stubbornness when it comes to letting someone else grocery shop for him so he can stay home…they’re all factors against him in this pandemic. Plus add in the fact that he lives alone and I worry that he’s lonely. He and I had a rough go of things after my mom passed but over the past several years, there’s been a change in our relationship. And it’s been so good. I look forward to lots more family dinners and outings in the (hopefully near) future. But until then, we’ll sustain ourselves through texts and calls.
  6. “Framily” and friends. – The calls, texts, and messages just to check in or stay connected have sustained me on most days. From people I consider family to people I haven’t seen in person for years, I’m thankful for every relationship. This week alone, I wept watching a college friend’s memorial video for her dad as well as a high school friend’s welcoming home of her fiance. I’ve joked with someone I’ve considered my best friend since grade school and offered an ear to someone I view as family who is experiencing a loss. Through good times and bad, it’s reassuring to know that we’re all in this together and that even on our darkest days, there are people out there who care about us.
  7. Writing. – I realized pretty early on today that I was having a rough day. And when that happens, I don’t want to snap or take my mood out on my family. So I said to my 6-year old, “I think I’m going to take some time out to write. Because I’m feeling grumpy and writing usually helps me feel better.” Her response? “Okay, Momma. When I’m grumpy, I like to color.” She gets it. Sometimes the time alone is truly needed. And writing has always been an outlet for my feelings. Blogging, journaling, even working on the novel that I started about a year ago…writing is always cathartic. I hope this 30-day challenge gets me putting fingers to the keyboard more regularly. What better time to start a new routine, right?
  8. Sunshine. – It’s not lost on me that my mood is better when the sun’s shining versus when it’s cloudy or rainy. And this past week has brought us lots of clouds. I’m thankful that this craziness is happening in springtime (rather than in the dead of winter) so we can at least be outside soaking up the vitamin D whenever possible.
  9. Essential oils. – I’ve seen the memes. I know you all think that white women believe they can cure cancer with a little clary sage and frankincense. And for the record, I’m not THAT white woman. But on a day like today where my mind needs a little boost of optimism, you’d better believe that a couple of drops of something citrus in the diffuser gives me the pep I need. Say what you will. I’m happy.
  10. The internet. – Imagine for a moment that this quarantine was happening in the 1980s. No social media. No smart phones full of game apps. No e-books. No streaming services. No video chats. What the ever-living hell would we all do?! Thankfully it’s 2020 and my devices all allow me to stay connected with friends, music, books, movies and shows.

On that note, I think I’ll go rub some essential oil on my wrists and head out for some sunshine with my girl before settling in for a night of trashy reality TV with my husband. Stay well, friends. And for those who want to join me in this challenge (or just get a sneak peek of what I’ll be writing about in the coming weeks), here’s a copy of the 30 prompts:

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

To My Husband on our 10th Wedding Anniversary… November 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 3:32 pm
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Highschool sweet hearts

We met a lifetime ago. We were kids, sixteen years old and clueless about all that would come. A first date, the culmination of your persistent asking. A first kiss in a parking lot on a cold January night as the snow fell around us. Prom nights. Graduations. College years spent 150 miles apart, and all the weekend road trips and all-night phone calls to stay connected. The night you proposed, and the night my car died to save our future. Every moment of our past has led us to now, almost 19 years later, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. And I want to thank you.

 

02Thank you for supporting me emotionally through some of the roughest points of my past. Moving out of my parents’ house at 17, my mom’s brief illness followed by her passing and the emotional fallout that came after, navigating some tumultuous family relationships. When I can’t catch my breath and feel like there’s no way out of the hole, you’re the one I turn to. You bring me logic when my mind spirals out of control. You calm me down when I need it most.

 

04Thank you for being a constant source of encouragement. The little things you do and say have the biggest impact on me. Helping me see the bright side of a particularly rough week at work, boosting my confidence in my parenting, reminding me of my strengths when I’ve forgotten myself. You have helped me find my backbone countless times when I otherwise feel like a pile of mush. (And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll actually write the book you’ve been telling me to write for years now.)

 

Thank you for helping me celebrate all that’s good in our lives. And there’s been so.05 much. good. It’s easy to glide through life and lose sight of the positives. And sometimes I have to consciously stop and take it all in. Without our partnership in life, I don’t think any of it would have been possible. From the big stuff like our home and our family to the smaller stuff like family date days…I say it all the time but it’s completely sincere every time I do: “I love our life.”

 

06Thank you for being Rylin’s other (often better) parent. I’ll never forget how happy we were to have conceived our girl. The birthing class, setting up the nursery, and pacing the halls of Johnson Memorial Hospital with me during labor, awaiting the arrival of our future. That feeling of panic when they “let” us take her home from the hospital, unsupervised. We’re not always on the same page when it comes to parenting but I wouldn’t want to share the responsibility with anyone else. I am almost constantly in awe of you as a father and so thankful that she has you to teach her by example how a man should treat her.

 

Thank you for doing your best to help me be my best self. I’ve told you for 18+ years 07that “it’s not your job to try to fix me.” But for 18+ years, you’ve done just that. And for that, I am more appreciative than you know. Whether it’s shouldering more than your fair share of household responsibilities or taking me away for a weekend getaway, you always know what my soul needs to smile brighter. And you do your best to deliver just that.

 

We are each wildly different people than we were when we met. And I’m absolutely proud of who we’ve become, both as individuals and as a couple. Our marriage isn’t perfect but I’m proud that we’re both willing to acknowledge its faults and find ways to bolster it. And each other. Every day, I’m proud to call you my husband and so thankful to be your wife.

I love you always and all ways and look forward to celebrating a lifetime more anniversaries with you.

03

Perhaps the first ever “funfetti” wedding cake (11/01/2008)

 

My Last Letter to You October 29, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 5:40 pm
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“In order to love who you are you can’t hate the experiences that shaped you.”
–Andréa Dykstra

 

Photobooth

That second friend request from 2009 is still sitting there in my Facebook notifications. You sent it after I messaged to ask why you’d disappeared from my friends list. I mean, it seemed odd that you would’ve deleted me, considering it was you who reached out to me when the first friend request came in 2007. Do you remember what you said to me then, in ’07? “It took me a while to find you on here because I couldn’t remember your last name.” Always the charmer, you were… Part of me chalked that comment up to a bruised ego after I declined to receive a visit from you in ’03. But part of me thought maybe it was true. Maybe I was that inconsequential to you.

 

Anyway, back to ’09. You told me you had deleted your old page but that you’d send me another friend request. Which you did. And there it’s been ever since. Pending. You never asked me how I even noticed your name was gone from my friends list. Or maybe you suspected why. Either way, I’ll own it. I still look you up from time to time. I wanted to know that you were happy, thriving, growing up. I’d seen that you got married—holy damn, I thought THAT day would never come! I’d seen pictures of friends and cars and your sister—all grown up! And eventually talks of a new girl who became a new wife…more cars and more friends and a little sports. And then October 2017 came around.

 

Summer 2000 a

Earlier this month, I clicked on that pending friend request to visit your Facebook profile and saw posts from August about the fact that you were missing. A GoFundMe page set up by friends. An update about you turning up in an ICU in New York. Far from home. Critical. Alone. My sister reached out to your family and learned about your prognosis. When she first started updating me on what your family told her, I could tell she was dancing around the harsh reality. I said, “It’s okay, Bree. I’m not attached to him like that anymore. You can tell me.” So she did. And my heart broke for you, for your family. You’re too young to be where you were. You had so much life ahead of you…so much more to experience. I sent a friend request to your sister and messaged her to tell her I was thinking about all of you. Taylor said she’d pass along the message. I’m not sure if she did. Or you heard it. Or if it mattered. But I was….I still am.

 

Sweet 16

My “Sweet 16” Party

Your mom recently posted to your Facebook page a plea for friends of yours to visit you. She wrote, “He believes he has been forgotten….He needs to know he is loved.” But I didn’t visit. I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to—because I did. And not because doing so would’ve caused a ripple in my household—though it would have. I didn’t visit because I was afraid. I was afraid of walking into that hospital room and you not remembering me or caring that I was there. I was afraid to find out that maybe I wasn’t as an important piece of your history as you were of mine. And that would’ve shattered me. Maybe not visiting was selfish of me. But let me make it abundantly clear. You were not forgotten. And you were loved, fiercely.

 

Forrest Park

Forest Park (MA) – summer 2000

I’ve been in this weird place since finding out your condition. I’m a very happily married woman, most days at least…haha! And it’s been, what? Seventeen years since we last hugged goodbye. But you will always be my first love and a huge part of my past. So I’ve been walking in this bizarre and lonely reality for a month now where my heart is aching and I feel like I can’t talk about it. Because the person I want to talk to most is Chris—my best friend, my husband. And he’s held onto that night in the parking lot on your last visit to town. Do you remember? He and I had been arguing, the result of you-related tensions boiling over. You said to him, “If I wanted her, I could have her.” As though it were supposed to ease his mind. I knew when you said it that it wasn’t true. And you knew it, too. But I think he believed it, which was heart-breaking to me in itself. And that was the night his disdain for you was solidified. Anyway, he and I have created a beautiful life together since that night…a rock-solid marriage, a loving household, the most amazing daughter I could ever dream to call mine. He’s given me stability, kept me grounded, and showed me far more patience than I probably deserve. But I can’t ignore the fact that I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for the experiences you and I shared so long ago. You’ve always had a place in my heart, always will. Yet I feel like, out of deference to him, I can’t show how much your illness has been weighing on my mind.

 

Fall 2000

What was I thinking with that hair color?!

I woke up yesterday morning to read Taylor’s post. You’re gone. And I’m not sure what to do with all the feelings I’m feeling. So I asked Chris to search through the basement to find “the box” for me. You know the one…teen-aged girls squirrel away mementos from boyfriends in “the box.” And most women probably burn that stuff when they start a new relationship or toss it in the trash when packing up their girlhood room to move into a new house. It’s definitely disposed of in some way before they get married. But I’m one of the lucky few who holds no ill feelings towards any of my exes, including you. So I’ve kept it all. And last night, I’m glad I did. I opened that shoebox for the first time in 14 years—I know because there are emails tucked away in there, dated for 2003. And I took out what was on top…an old t-shirt of yours, the one I wore as a nightgown after you left. And I wept into it.

thumbnail_20171028_232450

 

I spent last night looking at old photos, reading old love letters, and remembering all the experiences we shared—the good and the bad. I know your friends will likely be sharing their memories of you over the coming days. And though ours go a bit further back than some, they’re important to me and I hope they were important to you, too. I won’t pretend to know the choices or circumstances that led you to where you ended up. Nor will I claim to know the man you’ve grown into. But I’ll tell you what I remember about our years together, a lifetime ago when we were kids….

 

QuinceaneraI’m going to remember how we met. You moved in across the street from me in the summer of 1998. You used to ride your bike past my house real slow. You later told me it was because you wanted to talk to me but were afraid. Can you imagine?! So you sent your little sister over to talk to me first. She was about 8 or 9 at the time, I think. And when it was time for Taylor to come home, you came over to get her…and chatted with me. You know, since you were there anyway. You probably thought that was a pretty smooth move back. Thinking about it now actually brings a smile to my face.

 

I’m going to remember what it was like falling in love with you. We fell hard and fast, as is the way with teens. (I was 15. You were 18. Your mom was nervous. Hahah.) I’d had boyfriends before but you were my first love. The kind that, to this day, still makes my stomach do backflips when I think back on it.

Summer 2000 b

 

I’m going to remember those square-cut diamond earrings that you wore in both ears. And that cologne of yours…. Did you know that for years after you, the slightest whiff of Tommy could bring me to my knees? I’m going to remember the way you cocked your fitted cap to the side when you wanted to lighten the mood. And the chain you never took off your neck. I’m going to remember how when you weren’t sure how to express your feelings, you spoke in song lyrics—you ALWAYS had the perfect song even when your own words failed you. I’ll remember the drawings and doodles and scribbled messages on marker boards. I’ll remember how you paused a little too long when speaking sometimes to avoid stuttering…a quirk you hated about yourself but one that I found endearing. I’ll remember Sunday morning softball games with my extended family…you could catch ANYTHING that was hit to the outfield. I’m going to remember making you pose for that god-awful “Titanic” themed portrait and the haunted house at Six Flags…and all that came before and after.

Drawing

I’m STILL trying to figure out the meaning of this…hahah!

 

I’m going to remember that no matter how much of a “tough guy” you tried to act like, you were a softy. I’ll remember that you preferred to joke when conversations got too heavy and often hid your insecurities with cockiness. I’m so glad I saved those letters, including the ones we wrote back and forth in a journal that summer you came to visit when I was living with Bree. Do you remember that? It was surprisingly YOUR idea and you did it happily in my sparkly blue pens. You said so much in those letters. And I either didn’t realize the gravity of them then or had just let the memory fade. Reading them last night was cathartic.

Journal - summer 2000

20-year old you questioned if people would miss you

 

And, sure, I’ll remember the arguments. The eye rolls. The exasperated sighs. The giving up. Hey, it’s all part of the experiences that shaped us, right? Love isn’t all rainbows and glitter all the time. And, with all the moving around you did, who could forget the goodbyes? There were tearful farewells in driveways and tearful drives to drop you off at home and tearful (and sometimes inappropriate…hahah) send-offs at bus stations. In fact, looking through old photos made me realize we did lots of crying. We got pretty good at goodbyes. But this one is the toughest because it’s the last.

 

Most of all, I’m going to remember how you made me feel. Safe. Loved. An important piece of your history. Flipping through the mementos of our time together has reminded me of who I was back then. And honestly, I hardly recognize that girl. She was adventurous and spontaneous and so so snarky. I miss her. And maybe if you’d looked back on those times, you might have thought the same about yourself—that you missed him. The him you used to be. I can’t picture him ever questioning how much he was loved.

Oct 2000

An excerpt from one of your last letters to me

 

I’m sorry, Nick. I’m sorry that we couldn’t have been the people we needed each other to be. But I’m not sorry for a single minute of the often tumultuous, on again off again, 2+ years of my life I spent with you. Or for any of the communicating we’ve done since then. Thank you for playing such a huge role in the experiences that have shaped me. And never EVER doubt that you were loved.

So Long

 

So long, old friend. I hope you find the peace that you couldn’t find here.

Love always,

Sierra

 

PS – Because I know you like to joke when the tears are coming, I’ll leave you with this. Typical Nick. Please note the god-awful “Titanic” themed portrait hanging on my wall behind you.

Cockiness

In memory of Nicholas Lorenzen (5/9/80 – 10/28/17)

 

Looking Up August 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 10:38 pm
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A few months ago, I saw a video online called Look Up. It’s stuck with me since then. And it’s made me stop and ask myself, “Is Facebook consuming my life?” It’s the first site I surf to when break time rolls around at work. It’s my home page on my personal laptop. It’s open virtually any time I’m holding my phone. My answer seemed to be a resounding yes! Until last week. I had the privilege to be on vacation. A full five days away from the office to spend at home with Rylin, my 15-month-old. (Yes, I’m that mom. The one who counts her child’s age in months. But I promise to only do it until she’s 2.) And I thought to myself, “Self, now is the time. No Facebook for a week.”

I dreamed of what a week away from Facebook would be like. There wouldn’t be any political rants to get under my skin. Or eternally pessimistic friends to get my spirits down. Granted, there also wouldn’t be any photos of my friends’ adorable children or internet memes of wrinkly pug puppies wearing tutus, either. I had lofty ideas of how I’d spend my time while Rylin napped; I’d scrub the bathrooms until they shined and make my own laundry detergent. I’d have sumptuous dinners waiting on the table when my husband Chris returned from work. I’d read more. I’d finally get those family photos into an album. I’d learn Italian. (Okay. Maybe not that lofty.) Still, it was going to be great.

Sunday night, true to my personal vows, I returned home from a family beach trip, posted a couple of photos to my profile, updated my cover photo, and signed off.

MONDAY 8/11

Resisting the urge to open Facebook on my phone first thing in the morning, as I usually do, was difficult. After breakfast and “Rhyme Time” (a half hour of nursery rhymes and songs for children Ry’s age hosted by the librarians at our local library), and a bit of playing, it was nap time. I did laundry. I checked my email to find a notification that my brother-in-law, who had been with us at the beach the day before, had tagged me on Facebook in a photo. I imagined it was a photo of Ry playing in the sand and wished I could see it.

It was rough but I made it through Facebook-free. That night, I think Chris could tell how much it was irking me to not be online. (Maybe it was the nervous tics?) He sat on the couch next to me scrolling through his news feed smugly.

“There’s BIG news happening and you don’t know about it because you’re not on Facebook,” he said.

“Suuuuure,” I rolled my eyes.

Still, he insisted. “I’m serious.”

“What’s this ‘big news’ that’s going on?” I asked.

“Robin Williams is dead.”

I didn’t believe him. We went back and forth for a full minute—me insisting he was joking and him insisting he wasn’t. Finally, I googled and confirmed. “Holy shit! Robin Williams is dead! THIS is what happens when I take a week off of Facebook? I kill Robin Williams? Who’s next?!”

TUESDAY 8/12

I came to a startling realization that we have three social events that coming weekend, two of which were being organized on Facebook. “I’ll have to have Chris check his events calendar for the starting times,” I told myself. Dinner was ready when he got home. More laundry got done but the house was no cleaner than it was over the weekend. I finished the book I was reading before bed.

WEDNESDAY 8/13

My day began at 5:19am when I was woken by the faint calling of “Momma….” I opened my eyes and became acutely aware of the fact that the air conditioner was off. The ceiling fan was off. The video monitor was off. Thank goodness for the battery backup in the audio monitor or I never would’ve heard Ry; we had no power. I tiptoed upstairs to close the office door across the hall from Ry’s room, hoping it would muffle the beeping sound that likely woke her. It worked. She fell back to sleep and I thanked my lucky stars for a little more sleep.

Back in bed, I couldn’t sleep, though. I was too worried about why the power was out. I checked the weather app on my phone to see if storms were in the area; nope, just rain. I peered out the window to see if the neighbors had power; nope, all dark out there, too. My next order of business would normally be to pull up Facebook to see who else was in the dark. I had a moment of panic. “How do I know how long it’s going to be? How many people are without power? What if no one else has reported the outage yet?” I then realized that Facebook is not the end all and be all of reporting power outages. A quick visit to our power company’s website later, I knew that a whopping 24 customers were without power and the power company was already working to restore it. It came back on about 40 minutes later and I was able to catch some more z’s.

THURSDAY 8/14

After three full days home with Ry, I was exhausted. My energy was no match for her. I napped while she napped. “Those damn photo albums have waited this long, they can wait a little longer,” I thought.

During afternoon play time, Ry looked at me and clear as day said, “I did it.” I was psyched! It was her first three-word sentence and certainly something to celebrate. I wished I could’ve posted a status update about it so everyone would know what a smartypants I birthed. But I couldn’t. So I decided I’d just call someone to tell them about it. And suddenly it didn’t seem momentous enough to warrant a call to anyone in particular for JUST that purpose. I imagined calling a friend to report the news and the pregnant pause that would follow my announcement when they wanted to say, “Okay, well, thanks for calling.” Instead, I waited to tell Chris when he got home. I was too tired to cook. We had take-out for dinner.

FRIDAY 8/15

After Chris’s work day ended, we took a very cranky Rylin to play at the playground at our local library. If I were on Facebook, I would’ve private messaged a couple of our friends who also have toddlers to invite them to join us. And maybe even posted a picture of them playing. Instead, we had fun just the three of us and Ry made friends with another 15-month-old girl named Charlotte.

SATURDAY 8/16

While chatting with a friend before Zumba that morning, she asked, “Are you back on Facebook yet?” I shook my head. “Oh,” she said, “well then you didn’t get the link I shared to your page. The Pooch Plunge is on the 25th.” I thanked her for the reminder because our golden retriever would’ve never forgiven me if I forgot.

That afternoon, we took Rylin to Magic Wings, where we’d be attending a wedding that evening. After walking around for a bit, we stopped at the food court to grab a snack. Chris pulled out his phone and began checking his news feed. “Cute. Today was Aiden’s birthday,” he commented.

“I’m. An. ASSHOLE!” I exclaimed. Chris didn’t understand what was wrong so I explained, “We were supposed to go to his party. I told them we’d stop in quickly before we left for the wedding. I can’t believe I forgot!”

I felt terrible and wanted to call Tonya, Aiden’s mom and a lifelong family friend of mine, to apologize for having missed the party. I took out my phone, opened my contacts, and….”HOW DO I NOT HAVE TONYA’S PHONE NUMBER?!”

SUNDAY 8/17

The three of us had plans to attend a friend’s barbecue. Chris had to check his events calendar to confirm the start time because all I could remember was that I’d agreed to bring a veggie platter. Ry napped through the party’s start time and after yesterday’s blunder, I didn’t want to not notify the hosts that we’d be late. Text message, it was. After the barbecue, I received an email notification that one of the hosts tagged me in a status update and immediately felt out of the loop.

MONDAY 8/18

Back to the grind. I went back to work and Ry returned to daycare. When I arrived to pick her up at daycare in the afternoon, I found her sitting in the dirt pit—like a sandbox but instead of sand it’s dirt. She was raking dirt around, digging her fingers into it, and sipping it from an empty Adobo container. I wish I were kidding. She was FILTHY from head to toe. But smiling the biggest smile ever and she passed out cold on the way home; these are both two sure signs of a fantastic day.

She went directly into the bath tub when we got home. After bath, I fed her dinner and put her to bed. When Chris got home from work I said, “If I was on Facebook, I totally would’ve posted a picture of Ry. She was dirtier than I’ve ever seen her.”

Chris laughed and said, “I feel like you’re taking this no-Facebook thing too far.”

“I’ll go back on tomorrow. Maybe,” I promised. Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t take the picture anyway.

TUESDAY 8/19

I found what I believe to be the coolest website ever made. It’s a travel agency for stuffed animals. I know. You’re saying, “Whaaaaaat?!” Just hear me out. You purchase a “tour package” on their website then mail them your stuffed animal. They’ll then take photos of your stuffed animal enjoying its vacation. When your stuffed animal comes home, it’s accompanied by a CD of photos of the adventure. I immediately wished a) Ry was old enough to find her stuffed animals traipsing around Japan to be entertaining and b) I could tell people about it.

So I told Chris. I don’t think he appreciated it half as much as I did.

“I would’ve put it on Facebook. You know…if I were on Facebook,” I told him.

“Would you just go on Facebook already?!” he smiled.

TODAY 8/20

Well. Here I am. On Facebook. And after a week (plus) without logging in, I see more of the good in it. It’s a means to share what’s important to me in a way that isn’t invasive to others. It’s a good way to organize my social life. It’s how I often contact people. It’s the manner in which I get my news. And what’s wrong with any of that?

Instead of nixing social networking altogether, I’m now thinking about cleaning up my profile a bit…maybe make use of the filters Facebook provides to help me sort my friends into groups and help me hide some of the content that I really don’t want to see. Or start to drop people off of my friends list if necessary.

Hello, Facebook. I’ve missed you!

 

My First Tarot Reading February 6, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 1:36 am
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“Employees only” the door said. She opened it and ushered me down a set of narrow, rickety wooden steps into the basement of the bar her and her husband own. “It’s kinda chilly down here. Sorry about that,” she offered, as she sipped soda through a coffee stirrer. I was led into her office and she motioned for me to sit. She settled into another chair opposite me. White Christmas lights hung from the ceiling and flickering light danced along the walls from the candles between us.

“Have you ever had your cards read before?” she asked. I shook my head no.

“Do you have any questions?” Again, I shook my head no.

“Nothing at all?” she asked, incredulous.

“I don’t really believe in all this,” I admitted. I paused before adding, “I don’t really disbelieve, either. I wouldn’t say I’m a skeptic, exactly. I mean…I want to believe. But I want you to tell me something that will make me believe.”

She had me shuffle her deck of tarot cards and then spread them out, face down, between us. She told me to pick out six cards and keep them face down in front of me. I did as instructed. And it began.

The first thing she did after flipping over my cards, one by one, was scribble a letter on her notepad. And then she told me things about myself. “You tend to be the sensible one in your relationships.” How could she know that? Is it because of the purse I carry? It WAS a sensible purchase… “It’s up to you to sort of rein things in when they’re getting out of hand. You have that wild side in you, too, but realize there’s a time and a place.” Is it written in the way I dress? Damn this Dress Barn top. “You see things that others often don’t. Your intuition is stronger than most people’s.” I’ve always (arrogantly) thought that but lots of people probably think that about themselves. “You’re a super emotional person but you don’t let people see your vulnerable side often. You internalize things that bother you rather than show it.” True. But again, that probably applies to 50% of the world.

She then began talking about “a male in my life who is going through some shit” (her words, not mine). She told me what’s happened so far (which was correct) and warned me that “it’s not over yet.” She told me how I feel about the situation (which was spot on) and advised me how to handle what’s to come. “Does this make sense to you?” She asked. I nodded and motioned to the letter on her notepad as I admitted, “Yes. I think that letter you wrote over there is him.” Lucky guess. Has to be.

She told me that a father or grandfather figure was coming through for me. “Dad has passed, yes?” Nope. “Then it’s a grandfather figure. He’s showing me you as a little girl. He just thought you were the cutest thing.” I meant more to him that I realized, she said. She asked me if his birthday or anniversary was in the month of May. I shook my head and said, “Not that I know of. He was born in November and died in January.” Still, she insisted, “I feel a strong May connection with you.” I told her that my daughter was born in May. Her eyes lit up and she said, “Your grandfather had a hand in that somehow.” This is all a sweet sentiment, but how can I ever know that what she’s saying is true? I can’t very well go ask PopPop, now can I? I was smiling inwardly about my grandfather when she added, “And this is connected to mom, right?” Nope. PopPop was dad’s dad. [Several days later, I realized that she could very well have been talking about my mom’s dad. I met him exactly once in my life. My mom, who hadn’t had contact with him in years, heard that he was hospitalized and dying. She knew I’d always wanted to meet him and, knowing that it could be my last chance, she took me. I stood awkwardly at the foot of his bed. I was about 12 years old at the most. And I could only think of two things: “So this is who I get my blue eyes from” and “Holy crap, this dude looks like Santa Claus!” He died a short time after that visit. He was alone, after a life riddled with addictions that meant more to him than his family. And that visit probably did mean more to him than my 12-year-old self knew.]

She piled the cards up into one pile and paused. “Mom is in here,” she said, tapping the pile. “But she’s not saying anything to me.” She spread the deck of unused cards in front of me and told me to pick four more. She’d piqued my interest.

For the next five or so minutes, she began to lose me. “Your husband is waiting for a decision that’s going to end in his favor….a promotion or a new job. It’s going to mean more money for the family. Probably around summer time.” August is when Chris’ annual review (and raise) happens at work. But that’s not what I’d call a promotion… “And there’s an opportunity on the horizon for you. It’s not related to work or money. It’s a great change, though. You’ll be leaving something behind and it’s really pretty cool.” Wouldn’t we all like to believe that great things are about to happen to us?

We continued this song-and-dance some more. I chose some cards. She pulled some cards from the unused deck and piled others up after discussing them. She told me about two relationships: an old romantic relationship and a longtime friend relationship. And there was infidelity involved. Considering that I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart and have ZERO reason to believe that he’s been unfaithful, I can’t begin to guess what she could mean by this….I guess this whole tarot thing is a hoax after all.

And that’s when she said something about jewelry of my mom’s. I don’t remember exactly what she said but I remember unfolding my hands and pointing to her wedding band, which I wear on the middle finger of my right hand. Whatever she said had to have hit home because it was then that I began to cry.

“Your mom was sick before she died.” I agreed. I’m fairly young to have a mother who died of natural causes. So she had a 50/50 chance of getting this right….it would’ve either been a sickness or an accident. “She had a hard time in the end. She was depressed because she felt like a burden and because she wasn’t ready for her journey to end. But she accepts it now. She realizes that her journey had to end.” She probably DID feel like that in the end. But then again, I’m sure everyone who dies of cancer at 48 has a hard time coming to terms with it. “She had a sibling who died very young, yes?” I nodded, thinking about her brother Christopher who died of SIDS“She wants you to know that she’s with her brother.”

And then she began to get eerily specific about things that have concerned me since my mom passed…

She squinted a bit and said, “Cooking…something about cooking.” I laughed and said, “I mean, she cooked but she was terrible at it.” She nodded and said, “This may sound strange but I’m just going to say it. She’s showing me a McDonald’s meal and saying ‘I may have been the fast food queen but at least I fed them.'” I laughed again. That was my mom. [Since we started trying to conceive, I’ve acknowledged that my mother never placed much importance on nutrition when I was growing up. I have even said that I’m downright resentful over the fact that mom didn’t teach us about eating healthy and vowed that I’d do better for my daughter. I can absolutely hear my mother saying this and truly feel that this was her retort to my recent statements.]

“There were decisions that had to be made in the end, one of which was somewhat rushed. And she wants you to know that she is happy with them. You made the right decisions.” [We had a family meeting a couple of weeks before the end. She was in ICU at the time and apparently the doctors didn’t think she was capable of making her own medical decisions. I remember telling her that I’d be right back, that I had to step across the hall to attend a meeting. And I remember that her face fell. My ordinarily headstrong, independent mother realized that the meeting was about her. “Oh. I don’t go to the meeting?” I knew that she knew it was about her. And in that meeting, we—my sister, my father, and me—informed the doctors that it’s always been my mother’s wish to not be sustained by life support. It was at that meeting that we agreed that when the time came, she would not be resuscitated. On the afternoon that she died, she’d been fighting off pneumonia and having a hard time breathing. I nervously called for the doctor when I noticed her face flashing blue between unsteady, spaced apart breaths. I remember several people rushing in with equipment and one nurse yelling over the chaos, “She’s a DNR!” The personnel who were about to intubate her stopped. And within about a half hour, she was gone. I hoped that we’d made the right choice by sticking to what she’d always said were her wishes.]

“Spirits can’t show themselves, just so you know. But she says she sits on your bed and watches you sleeping sometimes. And she sends you signs all the time.” [I remember telling Chris when she first died that I hoped she came to me. And I specifically told him that I don’t want to see her because I didn’t want to be afraid. I just wanted to know she’s there. If she sends me signs, I’m not paying enough attention. But I do seem to dream about her whenever I really need her.]

“You and your sister have placed blame on dad. And she doesn’t want that. She keeps saying ‘he’s just a guy’ and ‘I took such good care of him he’ll never forget me.’ The relationship between the three of you is nothing more than a power struggle and it’s just not worth it. Accept it for what it is and don’t blame him.” [My mom wouldn’t have said “guy”…”boy” or “man” maybe, but not “guy.” But the sentiment is her to a tee.]

“Did your mom enjoy a cocktail from time to time?” she asked. I shook my head because she didn’t. Ever. “She’s showing me a drink…almost like she wants you to take a drink for her. She wants you to remember her but to laugh and be happy. Your mom is awesome! She is so funny! She can come visit me anytime!” [The whole “laugh and be happy” sentiment is spot on. Following her wake, we had a celebration of her life in lieu of a funeral. There were no flowers. Just balloons. And music. And a memory book in which guests were asked to write a short note about a good time they remember about her.]

“She made it a point to get something for you…something she wanted you to have to pass down…? It’s for your daughter. She wants your daughter to have it. And she wants you to know that she’s so proud of you girls because you’re both moms. She’s stressing that ‘you’re not just mothers…you’re MOMS.'” [True. I was engaged to Chris at the time she was in the hospital. And she insisted that I needed to have a hope chest as my wedding gift. She purchased it while in the hospital and told me she’d fill it will all sorts of things when she got home. She never had the chance to fill it but the hope chest currently holds my wedding dress and Chris’ grandmother’s china.]

“There is something of your mom’s that was intended for you but you never got it. She wants you to know that your dad may have thrown it out and she doesn’t want you to be mad at him for it.” [My sister and I found a handwritten journal of my mother’s at some point just before or just after she died. It was tucked in the drawer of her nightstand. I remember my sister reading snippets of it to me, including one that said something to the effect that she hoped that someday I (specifically) would read it. When we went through her belongings after she passed, it was gone. My father admitted to my sister once long ago that he had it. But neither she nor I have seen it since.]

“She wants me to say thank you for the pizza. She says it meant a lot to her and she remembers it as a happy memory. Does that make sense to you?” I nodded. [One day when my mom was sick, she was having a “good day.” It was before she lost the muscle strength in her legs that would eventually render her unable to walk. And it happened to be a day between chemo treatments when she had an appetite. All she wanted was pizza from a particular pizza shop in our hometown. Not only did I deliver the pizza to her hospital room, but I also brought her dog (Bobby McGee, who happens to currently be curled up at my feet). The four of us—me, her, my dad, and Bobby McGee—took a stroll outside the hospital and found a gazebo. We sat there while she at her pizza and pet Bob. It was one of only a handful of truly happy memories I have of her final months.]

I daubed my eyes with a tissue—probably my third or fourth one I pulled from the box on the table during our session—and whispered, “I’m a believer.”

 

Zumba 101 December 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 10:47 pm

My love affair with Zumba began about two years ago with a drunken pinkie promise  in the booth of a Denny’s Restaurant at around 2:30am. (Isn’t that where all good things begin, really?) “Okay, I’ll give it a try,” I vowed.

And I hated my first class.

I agreed to “give it another try” before making up my mind, though. And after a few such tries, I was hooked.

Hi, I’m Sierra and I’m an addict. It’s been three hours since my last class.

All people belong in one of three groups: those who have no idea what Zumba is, those who haven’t tried Zumba yet, and those who love Zumba. There’s no other option. I assure you.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ZUMBA IS…

It’s the most fun you’ll ever have while working out. And the number of calories you can burn in an hour is astounding. So, please. Crawl out from the rock under which you’ve been living for the past 10+ years and YouTube it. Wiki it. Google it.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVEN’T TRIED ZUMBA YET…

You have your reasons, I know. But I’m here to dispell them.

I’d be terrible at Zumba because I can’t dance. Wrong. If you can follow along when Aunt Millie breaks out with the good ol’ Electric Slide any family function with a DJ, then you can Zumba. That’s all Zumba is, really…just a series of line dances you haven’t learned yet. Here’s what you can expect from a Zumba class: An instructor will turn off the overhead lights (and likely turn on some sort of strobes or colored lights), the students will cheer, and then he or she will lead the class through about 55 minutes of easy-to-follow, repetitive dance moves followed by about 5 minutes of stretching. Just do your best to follow along and if you can’t understand how to do a move, just do something else instead. The goal is to keep moving. And with the lights off, no one is really going to notice what you’re doing anyway.

I can’t go to Zumba! I’m a dude! Tell that to my husband Chris, who’s been coming to class with me multiple times per week since the beginning. True, attendance is predominantly (okay, almost exclusively) female. But I’ve had a handful of male classmates…and even a few male instructors. No one is going to look at you cross-eyed, I promise.

I’m not in good enough physical shape to take a Zumba class. You don’t have to be in shape at all. In fact, if you’re not in shape, that’s a pretty good reason to start going, isn’t it? All good instructors will be glad to show you how to modify movements as needed. Bad knees? Step side-to-side instead of jumping. Can’t figure out what the heck everyone is doing when the instructor yells “Merengue!”? March in place. Having a hard time popping your hip as quickly as the person next to you? Try going at half-speed. No one is going to bat an eye at what you are or aren’t doing during class as long as you’re moving.

I wouldn’t know what to wear. Though the Zumba website offers a full wardrobe of Zumba gear (including under garments and shoes), there’s no uniform. Sure, you’ll see some students in the official garb. But most of us just wear a comfy t-shirt and some yoga pants. Or sweats. Or basketball shorts. Really the only criteria is that it’s comfortable and breathable. Dress like you’re about to go for a jog. When it comes to shoes, go for something lightweight with little or no tread. Stay away from running shoes (or any other shoe geared toward forward motion) and dance shoes (or any other shoe with no or split soles). 

I’m afraid to go by myself…who will I talk to? Before class begins, you can say hello to the other people in class. We’re friendly. But beware. If you tell us it’s your first class, we’ll probably shoot off on a tangent about how great Zumba is. During class, no one has the breath to talk to anyone else anyway. And after class you’ll be so sweaty you won’t want to hang around to mingle.

How will I know what to do or where to stand? We’re friendly, yes, but we can also be territorial. Ultimately, we’re there to work out so our goal is to be certain we’ll have full range of motion throughout class. Others crowding into “our” space or otherwise inhibiting our movement is a buzzkill. Some tips for your first class:

  • Don’t encroach upon the front row. That’s where the regulars (and/or friends of the instructor) stand. And you definitely don’t want to be there if you don’t have some semblance of an idea as to what you’re doing because as the instructor moves around the room, the rest of the class will invariably rely on those in the front row to know what move is next.
  • Don’t hide in the back of the room. You’ll never be able to see the instructor from the back row. If you can’t see the instructor, you chances of learning the steps are diminished.
  • Don’t stand smack in the center of the room. Newbies typically prefer to fly under the radar. But here’s a hint: Everyone watches the instructor. The instructor typically stands at the front of the class near the center. So try to choose a spot near the edges of the room (even if it’s near the front). Everyone will be looking towards the center so no one will notice what you’re doing.
  • Don’t try to keep yourself lined up too perfectly with anyone else. Stand slightly to the left or right of the people in front of you (and behind you). Stand slightly in front of (or behind) the people to your left and right. This will give everyone the illusion of having more room to move.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO LOVE ZUMBA…

You’ve tried it. You love it. You can’t wait to go back to your next class. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

Not all instructors are created equal. I’m not Zumba certified but I’ve heard from those who are that “certification is a joke.” To become certified to teach classes, you pay a fee and show up for a one-day training seminar. Attendance is taken at the start of the day. And certification is given out at the end of the day. But there’s no tracking who actually stays for the middle part of the day when all the “training” actually takes place. That said, some instructors take what they do seriously. Those are the instructors who spend time selecting music, choreographing, and arranging their routines to maximize your calorie burn. If the class isn’t full, chances are the instructor isn’t very good (or is unfortunate enough to have a terrible timeslot for class). If you’re not sweating by, say, the third song, chances are the instructor isn’t very good. If you’re bored, chances are the instructor just ins’t for you. There are so many different “flavors” of Zumba classes so if one isn’t working for you, try another instructor.

The music is an important aspect of class. But it’s not the ONLY important aspect. I have seen some classmates (literally!) pop in earplugs at the start of class to shut out some of the noise. I’ve also seen some classmates bow their heads, raise their hands, and pretty much fade into their own two-steppin’ world the minute their “jam” comes on. Ideally, you should be somewhere in between these two extremes. If you don’t like the music, you should try another instructor; every instructor has their own style and chooses their playlist based on what they like. I’ve been to classes where the music is entirely instrumental, classes where the playlist could’ve been pulled from the American Top 40’s countdown, and classes where unusual-to-Zumba genres (ie country, techno, classic rock) have been sprinkled throughout. Find a class that suits your taste. But once you do, remember that your job doesn’t end with simply enjoying the soundtrack. Now you’ve got to MOVE.

Everyone—probably even you—has a nickname. When Chris and I first started going to Zumba, we didn’t know anyone else in our class. Two years later, we still don’t know most of them by name. But we’ve got nicknames for almost all the regulars. There’s Cow, a (despite what you may have thought) very physically fit woman who chews loudly on gum throughout every class EVER. And Hip (who over-exaggerates all hip motions). Soccer and Soccer Mom (a young, athletic girl who wears soccer shorts and sweat bands and her mother) always come together. Skunk used to have dark hair with a light streak down it…but will forever be Skunk regardless of her current hair color. Earplug hates loud music. I used to think this was “our” ritual—naming our classmates. Until one day when I heard Wingspan (the tallest, lankiest woman I’ve ever seen) whisper something to her friend about Google. I was not party to their conversation but as soon as she said Google, the three of us instinctively looked to the front of the room at the girl who immediately begins walking through the routine the moment she hears the next song start playing. She. Knows. EVERYTHING. And that’s the moment I realized that it’s not just something Chris and I do. About a year into attending Zumba, having lost a fair amount of weight, Soccer Mom approached me and said, “You look great. My daughter and I call you guys the Disappearing People.” It was then that I realized *gasp* we might even have our own nicknames from our classmates. (Side note: I’d HATE to know what Soccer Mom calls me now…post-baby and not-so-disappearing these days…)

You’re working out. Not starring in a J-Lo music video. Unless it’s a wedding band, jewelry really doesn’t belong in a Zumba class. So, please, remove your four inch hoop earrings before the warm-up. You are not obligated to coif your hair or layer on make-up for that 8am class on Saturday. You’re going to sweat. It’s okay to look a bit disheveled. There’s this one girl—I like to call her Porn Star—who comes to class every now and then. She arrives in a t-shirt, pony tail, and the teeniest short shorts known to man. And by the third (or so) song, without fail, she presses one hand up against the mirror and pulls her ponytail out with the other. She literally shakes her hair out. Then takes off her shirt and finishes class in her sports bra and teensy shorts. And every time she does this (which is every time she’s in class, mind you), I’m not the only one stifling a laugh and rolling my eyes. No one cares what you look like. Trust me.

If you’re not having a good time, you’re doing it wrong. It’s okay to smile. It’s okay to ham it up. Get lost in the music. Get lost in your movements. Know what you’re doing? Then do it bigger. The more fun you have, the more you’ll want to move. And the more you move, the more calories you’ll burn.