WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Lessons from the Campground September 11, 2020

Day 21: What three lessons do you hope your children learn from you?

Labor Day weekend has come and gone and just like that, summer is over. I spent my holiday weekend camping out with a small group of family and friends in my sister’s back yard. It’s a tradition that began nearly ten years ago. And it’s one that feels so important to us all that we’ve kept it going and have no plans to stop. It’s two nights of “roughing it” in tents. Screen time is virtually non-existent unless you count pulling out a phone to snap a photo or take a video; and we’ve got lots of both, thankfully. Bedtimes (and rules in general, for the most part) don’t matter. Priority is placed on quality time with each other and making memories to last a lifetime.

Every year, inevitably, the adults find themselves huddled together while the kids are off playing or sleeping or chattering until all hours of the night. And we muse over the fact that we hope our children hold the memories created during our camp outs for a lifetime. This year, we went as far as to imagine what the weekend will look like far into the future, when it’s our kids serving us and their kids food from the grill. There’s no doubt that these weekends are important to every last one of us campers. Fun to be had. Lessons to be learned. Here are three of the lessons that I hope my daughter, specifically, will take from these days…

LESSON 1: Your tribe is important. Choose them wisely.

Obligatory breakfast feast photo of the kiddos

The camping crew is a mix of family and friends (which I’ll often refer to as “framily” or my tribe). And, sure, not all of my tribe make the guest list; in fact it’s the same crew year after year with no new additions without passing a group vote. (And there WAS a vote this year so there WILL be new invitees next year!) We come in all colors, ages, sizes. We listen to different music, which often leads to a battle over the Bluetooth speaker that results in a country ballad followed by a reggae beat. We don’t all agree on the definition of a perfect s’more. Our parenting styles vary. But none of that matters because we mesh on things like know how to make each other laugh, de-stress, and have fun. We come together and all do our part to help out from unloading the cars on Saturday morning to packing up tents on Monday afternoon. And by the time we all return home, our stomachs are sore from laughing, our feet are filthy from walking around barefoot, and our hearts are full of memories that are burned into the very fiber of our beings.

LESSON 2: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is always a crowd favorite during karaoke time.

During daylight hours, you can find us campers making up games with various supplies from my sister’s stash of camping gear. Sometimes we craft together. There’s always swimming and, for the past two years, “bull rides” in the pool that involve the rider climbing or jumping onto a huge inflatable bull while others attempt to knock them down. There’s always a few who pull their air mattress out of their tents and take mid-day naps in the sunshine. (Guilty as charged this year!) By nightfall, the music is blaring as we line dance and sing karaoke. No matter what we choose to do, there’s no judgment. We’re all just there to have fun. Laugh. Forget that summer is ending, school is starting, and the world feels chaotic and scary most days. In that backyard, our campground, cutting loose and enjoying some levity is what it’s about.

LESSON 3: Unplugging is vital to the soul.

The glow of a screen is no match for the glow of a campfire

The connections we make online are important, sure. Social media helps us stay up to date on what the kids are doing and where everyone is vacationing and, yeah, even sometimes what you had for lunch. But the freedom to unplug from all that–from news and streaming TV and a constant barrage of status updates–is freeing. The connections we make around a campfire are so very different. Whether it’s staying up until 2am laughing over newly created inside jokes or sitting around in a lazy silence together watching the flames lick the fire logs, there’s nothing like the connection and togetherness that’s felt around a campfire.

 

New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

 

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions having already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote,  my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe,  comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights  and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.

Me

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

What If….: Quarantine Edition May 5, 2020

(Day 11: Something you always think “What if…” about)

“We are the sum total of our experiences.” -BJ Neblett

We’ve all done it. Slipped down that rabbit hole where we question our past decision and dream about how life may have been different if only…. But I realized long ago that life as I know it life as I knew it pre-pandemic is pretty awesome. And if I were to go back and alter any single decision from my past, it could’ve changed the trajectory of my life in a way that would’ve led me to Not Here. So are there experiences that I wish I’d handled differently? Absolutely. But I refuse to waste any time regretting the experiences that have made me me.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have also invested time into thinking about our futures and all their possibilities. Guilty as charged! What if I wrote that book? What if I changed careers? What if we had another baby? What if we moved to a new town? Dreaming about a future even brighter and more fulfilling than my (pre-pandemic) present is exciting. It used to leave me with a heady confidence, a sort of the world is my oyster sort of vibrancy. Nowhere to go but up!

And then Covid-19 happened. And the first few weeks felt….unusual? But bearable still. Working remotely? I can get used to this. Home schooling? I’ve always wanted to try that. Stores and restaurants and theaters and seemingly everything else under the sun is closed? Think of the money we’ll save by staying home!

And over the next few weeks, my optimism started to wane a bit. Getting my school-loving smarty-pants to buckle down and get her work done comes with a fight every day. She misses her teacher. Hell, I miss her teacher. And the PTO. And dropping in for library time with her class on Wednesday mornings. Dance class on Zoom is a welcomed distraction for her, but it’s just not the same as giggling in the back room before ballet or chasing her friends around in an impromptu game of tag between jazz and tap. Cranking the volume on the TV for family movie night is all well and fine but really can’t compare to the big screen. Dance competitions? Canceled. Spring soccer season? Canceled. Dance recital? Not looking good.

I waited as long as possible before breaking the news to her about the fact that we can’t throw a party for her birthday just yet. She listened excitedly as I laid out the plan which includes a car parade instead of a party for now and the promise of a big bash as soon as we’re able. Like this summer. I could practically see the images in her mind of water balloon fights and sprinkler play and all the water activities she asks for every May but is told that it’s too cold to have at her birthday party. Like every other covid-19 related blow, she took that news in stride in such a way that I was both in awe and insanely jealous of her resilience. And I thought, what if she loves celebrating her birthday later? What if this is a blessing in disguise? 

Over the past few weeks, my what if-ing has taken a darker turn. What if things never go back to how they were? What if I don’t have a job to return to? What if our country plunges into another Great Depression? What if the stores never restock and we’re faced with food and supply shortages? My anxiety has been spiraling more than usual. I cry. Often. I worry and stress and let my brain create every imaginable worst-case-scenario.

Today’s announcement from the Governor of Connecticut was not unexpected in the least, though that didn’t make reading it any easier. Schools will remain closed state-wide for the remainder of the academic year; we’ll continue with distance learning. The last shred of hope I had that my girl could finish her first grade year in class with her teacher was ripped from me. No field trip, no field day, no assemblies. (Side note: I can’t imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling!!) Nope. When my girl returns to school, she’ll be a second grader. Entering a new classroom with a new teacher and a new batch of friends. Everything familiar from early March will be gone. What if we can’t even go back in September? What if she falls behind? What if she can’t cope with this blow? 

I reached out to my husband at work, which I find myself doing when the day feels too heavy to lift. And he did what he does every time. He reminded me that this isn’t going to last forever. That things will start to return to (closer to) normal over time. That we’ll get through this, together. He suggested I take some time for self-care, which I haven’t really been doing at all lately. He told me to pause. To be in the moment. And to not think about the next thing on the list or the next thing to be missed. And he’s right. There are too many unknowns at this time. What if-ing is futile because no one knows what things will look like when businesses reopen, when kids go back to school, when covid-19 is a blip in the history book.

So today, what if what I’m doing is enough? What if the fact that my kid’s school work is done and she’s still smiling is all I need to allow myself some me time? What if I don’t vacuum the house or fold the laundry? What if we order dinner so I don’t have to cook and the kitchen stays clean just for one day? What if I just breathe and not try to posit what the future beyond today holds? What if I lay all my worries and stress down? What if this, right here, is what I’m meant to be doing? 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Opened Doors April 20, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 3:08 pm
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(Day 9: Post words of wisdom that speak to you.)
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley 
Today is the one-month anniversary of the signing of Governor Lamont’s “stay at home” order in Connecticut so suffice it to say there are lots of closed doors lately.
Literally.
Movie theaters. Restaurants. Casinos. Amusement parks. Schools. All closed. There are no concerts, proms, beauty appointments. We can’t visit our family members, hug our friends, or step foot inside “non-essential” retail locations.
But today, rather than focusing on all the doors that are closed, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the metaphorical doors that have opened for me, thanks to this pandemic.

people wearing face mask for protection

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I have a renewed appreciation for essential workers, especially those in healthcare.
This one’s important because while I’m worried about my work hours having been cut and whether or not I’ll have a job to go back to, so many others are putting on their uniforms and marching in to their jobs, where they face potential exposure daily. I couldn’t do what they do. But they’re there, doing what’s necessary to keep us moving forward. Taking tiny steps toward normalcy for us all again. And in the meantime, I’m going to focus on the blessing that is staying home and safe with my girl.
Never again will I have this opportunity to bond with my daughter on this level. 

My Two Kids

My two babies

Speaking of my girl, it’s not lost on me that this time with her is precious. And please don’t think that means this time has been all Pinterest-worthy craft projects and Montessori-inspired “distance learning.” There have been plenty of times when all I have the strength to do is slap some chicken nuggets and a Netflix cartoon in front of her so I can get a moment of solitude. Some days there are power struggles and, let’s be real, I don’t always win them. I yell more than I should. I often count the hours until her bedtime. But you know what else? We read together more now than ever. I get the chance to see first-hand (better than any report card could ever demonstrate to me) her strengths and weaknesses, academically. I’ve been able to teach her new things like navigating online apps to access school content and I’m in the beginning stages of a presentation to answer her repeated “Where do babies come from?” question. Not having to leave the house for her school or my work has afforded us more time to play games, laugh, talk, and just enjoy each other. At first, it was easy for me to not see past this “closed door.” I mourned the loss of her spring soccer and dance competition seasons. I was sad for her that she’d be “missing out” on having a birthday party or finishing the first grade IN school with her teacher and friends. But when I look past all that, I’ve realized that she is truly thriving through all this. Other than brief moments of pouting over the lack of a (non-canine) sibling to play with, she has loved every minute of all this mommy-and-me time. She’s going to look back on this pandemic fondly, of that I’m sure.

 

brown paper bag

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It has forced me to reconsider how we stock our fridge and pantry.
We are so fortunate to be living in a time and in a country where the infrastructure already existed to facilitate changes like “curbside pickup” at stores, Door Dashing take-out to our front porch, and having grocery items delivered to our homes. Before all this, our family typically did a Costco run once or twice per month and I went to the grocery store on Sundays for what we’d need for the week. Beyond that, my husband would schlep to the store for whatever I’d forgotten and/or whatever we decided on a whim that we “needed” at 11pm on a weeknight. Now, though, stocking our house takes a bit more planning. To stay out of stores, we order groceries for delivery. And lots of you are doing the same because the typical one- or two-day delivery from Stop & Shop now takes about 14 days from reservation to delivery day. It takes a bit more pre-planning to make sure we don’t forget items and we think harder about what we “need” before taking a jaunt to the store for something, and never past 8pm since most essential businesses are closed after that. We cook more, order out less, and are more mindful of what we actually need to get by for a couple of weeks. And that’s something I hope to continue even after COVID-19 is nothing more than a mention in the history books.

 

My new schedule allows more hobby time.

background book stack books close up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

At 2pm on a Monday afternoon a month ago, I’d be just punching back in after my lunch break. Maybe I’d be submitting payroll or on a conference call with a client. Maybe I’d be elbows deep in title transfers or planning an agenda for our staff meeting. But right now? I’m sitting in a camp chair with my laptop on my lap, blogging while watching my daughter play in her sandbox. This past month has afforded me more time for writing, more time to tackle my to-be-read pile of books, more time for binge-watching trashy reality TV on Hulu. I bake more. I relax more. I smile more. Instead of rushing home from work to whisk my girl off to whatever extra-curricular she has on her agenda and then home to get her ready for bed only to rinse and repeat the next day, we can breathe. Everything outside the walls of our home has been paused. And that has given us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue true happiness rather than obligations.

 

white printer paper with be kind text on plants

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

This is my chance to reassess and reinvent my life.
When this “stay at home” order is lifted (or even relaxed) and life starts to return to normal, I hope to not just revert to the way things were. This pause has taught me to not take the little things for granted; an over-booked weekend of soccer games and kids birthday parties, a night out with friends, stopping by to see my dad “just because.” There’s a whole list of things that I can’t wait to do again the minute I’m able. And every last one of them are things I never really appreciated doing before all this. I hope to be kinder to strangers, more patient with my loved ones, and more resolute in the pursuit of my own happiness. And I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

 

So today, I urge you to stop what you’re doing. Put the worry and doubt aside. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do or where you can’t go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for your kids. Sit out in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Pause. And see things from a different perspective. Look at all those open doors!

joy painting brush

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

My MomFriendAunt is Better Than Yours April 9, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 8:13 am
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(Day 4: Write about someone who inspires you.)

Growing up, my mom’s best friend was always a presence in my life. But it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I really came appreciated the human being she is.

From the moment my mom’s diagnosis came until she took her final breath roughly three months later, her best friend was one of only four people she allowed to visit her. She was a huge support for our whole family during that emotionally charged time and I know she was a comfort to my mom, as well. She stood beside us in the receiving line at mom’s services and continued to be an incredible support to us in the days (and months and years) after.

It took me a while after my mom passed to realize that calling her “my mom’s best friend” was still true but no longer made sense. Instead, I started calling her “my friend.” And soon after, I dubbed her my “MomFriendAunt” because she’s like all of those roles in one for me.

She’s the one I reach out to when I’m having an “I just want my mommy” moment or when life feels too overwhelming to handle. She’s who I want to call when something exciting happens or I’ve got good news to share. I can say absolutely anything to her and know that the feedback she’ll give will be genuine, said with love, and have my best interest at heart. She listens without judgment, offers advice when warranted, and just… Gets me.

Late night text conversations, “girls weekends,” dinner dates with my daughter and her grandson, celebrations, and hanging out just because. She’s always there for me. I consider her family and feel fortunate to have her in my life.

But I’m certain I’m not the only one who can say all these things about her. I’ve seen the relationship she has with her adult children, extended family, and friends. She’s given so much to so many; she’s truly the most selfless person I know. And she often struggles with putting herself first and believing all the good stuff about herself. My one wish is that someday, somehow, she finally sees how extraordinary she is and just how much she means to so many.

I love you always, Frankie. Thank you for being you.

Photo credit: Not sure…I swiped it from her Facebook profile

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Happiness is… April 4, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:01 pm
Tags: , , ,

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

 

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!

 

Poop Happens September 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 2:08 pm
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One thing I have learned since becoming a parent is that poop is important. And talking about it is perfectly acceptable. You, my dear readers, will learn that from this post, if you haven’t already.

Before I was a parent, I didn’t realize you need to know when a kid poops. Not only when but how often and—gasp—what it looks like. (“Greenish and kinda seedy” is a common utterance in our house.) And this past weekend, I learned that poop is never more important than when it’s not happening. As was the case this weekend.

Friday night is a bath night for Rylin. Chris usually puts on a bathing suit and jumps in with her; it’s easier than trying to get her to sit still in the bath seat we have. So when she didn’t do her usual afternoon poop on Friday, Chris and I decided that we’d bathe her “after she poops tomorrow morning.” That turned into “before bed tonight after she poops” which turned into “Sunday morning after she poops.” Several times over the weekend, she got that real concentrated look on her face which was coupled with a little grunting and general fussiness. But when we changed her…no poop.

So we did what any parents in our shoes would have done. We busted out the big guns. We fed her Kirkland brand formula. Now, Kirkland makes some wonderful products. Don’t get me wrong here. But their baby formula seems to go right through Rylin. Which was a nuisance when we first discovered it but is a lifesaver when she’s having a hard time going.

GrinWhen Sunday night rolled around and there still hadn’t been poop, we admitted defeat. “She HAS TO have a bath tonight,” I decreed. Chris agreed.  While he drew the bath and suited up, I laid Rylin on the changing station on her “pack and play” which, for the record, is about five steps from the bathroom door. I took off her outfit and diaper. She smiled at me. It was a wide, tight-lipped grin which when flashed my way at 6:30am means “Hey, mom! I’m glad to see you!” But apparently when she does it at 7pm it means, “Brace yourself. I’m about to pee on you.” I let her finish, dried her legs with a baby wipe, and passed her off to daddy in the bathtub while I changed the wet pad that lines the changing table. Phew, I though. At least she peed BEFORE I picked her up to bring her to the bathtub. Because THAT’S happened…she’s happy as a clam in the bathtub and I’m standing there with a pee-drenched shirt. Not fun.

Rylin loves water. Be it the pool, a bath, or a shower, she kicks excitedly and tries to grab at the water. So bath time is usually all smiles and laughter. But last night was different. Chris bounced her up and down in the water and let her splash a little. Then all of a sudden, she started screeching like a tween who was just told that Justin Bieber has retired. Bright red face, pouty lip, hands balled up in fists. Inconsolable. Chris did what any concerned parent would do. He lifted her up out of the water and pulled her to his chest for a hug. And that’s when I saw it.

Poop.

“Keep her up out of the water!” I instructed Chris and I ran to grab some baby wipes. And that’s how I came to be bending over the bath tub, catching poop in a baby wipe. The whole time she was going, she kept trying to turn around to see what on earth was happening back there, fussing and straining all the way. And finally she was done. I dropped the “gift” into the toilet, flushed, and told Chris I’d be right back with another baby wipe to clean her before he puts her back into the bath water.

Photo credit: Bree Kohler-Priester

No sooner had I walked out of the bathroom to get more baby wipes, I heard Chris say, “Oh, boy. The Kirkland formula has kicked in.” I came back to the bathroom to find what I was hoping we had managed to avoid. Poop. In the bath water. Rylin smiled at it as it floated away, towards the drain. Not that tight-lipped grin. A big, gaping smile that says, “Look what I did!”

And all we could do was try not to laugh and remind each other, “She’s lucky she’s cute.”

 

 

Audiology and why I’m a terrible person July 17, 2013

Somewhere during my third trimester, probably over a bowl of ice cream and certainly while rubbing my belly, I mused to Chris, “Our job as her parents is to help her become the person she’s meant to be.” We had been playing the what-if game that all expectant parents play. (Don’t they?)

What if she hates us? How could she when we’re going to teach her and listen to her and love her unconditionally?

What if she’s gay? I just hope she finds someone to love and grow old with.

What if she decides she want to be a vegetarian like her momma? I’ll be happy as long as she’s nourished and growing.

And I had decided that I would never be disappointed in who Rylin becomes because my only expectation is that she becomes herself. Those parents whose lives shatter when their children choose the “wrong” career or marry the “wrong” partner are surely only devastated because their children have failed to live up to what mom and dad have already carved out for them in their minds. If we just roll with it and watch Rylin unfold into the young woman she is, how could we ever have regrets? I was so confident in my ability to clear my mind of all expectations for her future and remain open to all the possibility that was curled up and kicking inside me.

It wasn’t until her two week check-up that I began to question my willpower to not start to fill in the blanks for what lay ahead for her. “When do we retest her hearing?” I asked her pediatrician. She received a “refer” on the hospital’s infant hearing screening prior to us being discharged. Refer, as far as I can tell, is a nice way of saying “fail” without making new parents feel like their kid is anything less than perfect. Anyway, the staff pediatrician at the hospital assured us that it happens to lots of kids and that “the vast majority of them test normal at the recheck.” We tucked that information away and assured ourselves that Rylin would be like “the vast majority.” So there was nothing to worry about.

“We can recheck right now, as long as she stays quiet like this,” her doctor replied. She pulled out a machine that was about the size of a walkman (yes, I’m dating myself) and put a tiny earpiece into Rylin’s left ear as she dozed in my arms. A few seconds later, she withdrew the earpiece, made an adjustment, and replaced it in her left ear again. And then, she said what I was afraid to hear. “She’s still not passing. I just checked twice.” We were told that additional testing would be required and that a specialist from the children’s hospital would contact us to schedule an appointment.

In the days leading up to the appointment with her audiologist, I convinced myself that nothing was wrong. She probably just had fluid in her ear from delivery still. She startles to loud noises, so clearly she’s fine. Right? 

The audiologist began with a test that, she explained, tests whether or not there is any blockage in the ear canal. There wasn’t. No debris, no fluid…just a clear path to the ear drum. I breathed a sigh of relief, certain that that meant the fluid that was in her ear before—the fluid that prevented her from passing the initial screenings—had drained. She’d pass this test with flying colors.

Next, she pulled out the same walkman-looking machine that Rylin’s pediatrician used in her office. This, come to find out, is called an OAE (oto-accoustic emissions) test. Greek to me. Anyway, she checked both ears. “We like to test both, even though in her case we aren’t concerned about her right ear. We like to gather information from both ears.” The news wasn’t quite what we were expecting. She wasn’t passing on her left ear. But her right ear was behaving in a similar way. Does this mean neither ear works correctly? 

The audiologist explained the final test to us as she affixed tiny round stickers to Rylin’s forehead and behind her ears. In the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test she would attach electrodes to the stickers and those electrodes would measure Rylin’s brain’s response to various tones played through a tiny earpiece inserted into her ear. One at a time; again, both ears would be checked.

We sat as quiet and still as possible, hoping that Rylin would remain sleeping long enough to complete the test. I watched the computer screen in front of the audiologist and wondered what all the lines meant. They’re moving a lot. That’s a good thing, right? About an hour into the test, the earpiece was moved from her left ear to her right. And we continued to sit quietly. Until about 15 minutes later, the audiologist explained that Rylin was starting to stir too much to continue the test. “I was able to rule out profound, severe, and moderate hearing loss.” I felt relief until she continued. “But I haven’t been able to rule out mild hearing loss.” And, again, her right ear (which passed the initial screening) is behaving much like her left. She showed us the computer screen she had been working from and pointed out what the lines meant. “This line here is the sound I played. And this line here is her response to that sound. With normal hearing, you’d expect to see a distance between these lines.” Rylin’s report didn’t look normal. Additional testing would be needed. When we come for our second appointment, the audiologist said, we would retest both ears. And determine whether or not Rylin might be a candidate for hearing aids. Hearing aids? Rylin doesn’t need hearing aids. 

When we opened the exam room door and entered the hallway leading back to the waiting room, I caught a glimpse of my future. A young boy was on his way in. He looked to be about five years old. A bit unsteady on his feet, clutching a toy truck in his arms, thick glasses perched on his nose. The woman walking next to him—likely a speech pathologist—chatted with him and I couldn’t help but notice that his pronunciation was off.

Suddenly, the what-if game took a different turn. What if she really can’t hear? What if her hearing loss affects her speech development? What if she needs hearing aids. I found myself googling to learn more about infant hearing loss. Could infant hearing improve? Could the BAER test results be wrong? Do children with mild hearing loss perform as well in school as children with normal hearing?

I expressed my concerns to Chris. “If both ears are behaving the same, that means her left ear is only barely failing, right?” And what I thought was, “Or her right ear is barely passing.” I admitted that I was worried that she may need hearing aids. I was worried about how others would receive her, how her peers would treat her. Will she still get to be a normal little girl? I watched her closely for signs that she was hearing. She startles when the dogs bark. Her eyes flinch when I replace the cap on her bottle after a feeding. She can’t possibly be not hearing, right?

A week passed between that day and our next appointment. Same office. Same test. Different audiologist. After about two hours of sitting quietly, watching my sleeping newborn with electrodes all over her head, the audiologist turned to me with news. “She is testing in the normal range. She is responding to all the tones I’ve played and I’ve been able to duplicate those responses, which rules out the possibility of it being a fluke.” Both ears. No more retesting. No hearing aids. Completely normal.

I let a tear slip out and broke into a huge smile. I have never felt so much relief.

And then I felt guilt. I realized that despite the fact that I vowed to not plan my daughter’s future for her, I somewhat had. In my mind, she’d learn to talk early and excel in school. We’d whisper secrets to each other before I tucked her in at night. She would tell me long, winding stories about her days and her friends. I hadn’t planned out anything that didn’t seem like a given during my pregnancy. But I had planned enough to be shattered by the reality that a hearing loss could change the things I wanted for Rylin’s future.

I felt like a terrible person for allowing myself to spend the last week thinking that a mild hearing loss was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to Rylin. I thought back to that little boy at the audiologist’s office and felt ashamed that I saw his imperfections before I saw the fact that he was a happy, well cared for little boy. I felt disgusted that my biggest concern was possibly needing to have my newborn fit for hearing aids when other parents are dealing with much bigger issues than mine. I thought of my cousin and her wife. My cousin was due to deliver her baby girl exactly one month after I was due to deliver my baby girl. But instead, she delivered a sleeping baby ten days after Rylin arrived. How could I have been selfish enough to worry about a possible mild hearing loss when she’s dealing with child loss? Isn’t adapting to a future slightly different than I expected for my child better than kissing my baby goodbye on delivery day? 

I’ve talked to my cousin about my guilt over the fact that she and I got to experience pregnancy at the same time…and now I’m left with a healthy baby and she’s not. I feel a pang of regret when I share photos of Rylin to Facebook because I wish she could be sharing photos of Delaney growing, too. She told me not to feel guilty. “Life isn’t fair at times,” she said. “But the fact you guys have a beautiful healthy baby and we don’t isn’t considered one of those times.”

This post is for Sasha. And Racheal. And most of all Delaney. When life throws us a curve-ball in raising Rylin, I hope I can see past the set-back and remember how blessed Chris and I truly are.

On a related note, my cousin’s grieving has brought her to blogging as a way to get her emotions out. You can read her work here: http://sakoh1113.blogspot.com/?m=1