Hey, Stacy Keibler – I Call Dibs on Your Brain

I’m in awe of Stacy Keibler. Rather than curl up in the time-honored, traditional post-breakup fetal position, George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend has been making the rounds of entertainment news shows, charming reporters with quotes like, “I’m someone that’s always lived the present moment. I always look at the positive on everything.”

Photo via flickr.com

Photo via flickr.com

Whaaaaat? Long legs, two years with George Clooney AND a brain that focuses on the positive? A genetic trifecta! So not fair.

Others can envy her long limbs and romantic conquests, I covet her positive brain. Where do I get one?

Who do I have to f* - I mean - What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler's?

What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler’s?

For nearly half my life I’ve worked to transform my negativity-seeking brain into a affirmation-infused positive one. Although I was dropped on my head a number of times as a child, I’m not convinced that accounts for the way my brain processes life, especially incoming information.

Perhaps something more sinister is at work. Undiagnosed brain tumor? Incompetent therapist? Not enough sex? You decide:

A recent conversation with my husband:

Me:  Honey, I’m not sure I like these white jeans on me. What do you think?

Him:  They look good, but, you know, they’re white jeans. I don’t think anyone looks great in white jeans. I like blue jeans better.

What a normal brain hears:  Don’t love them. Blue jeans are more my thing.

What my brain hears:  Whoa, when did you gain all that weight? Don’t you dare wear those jeans out of this house! 

A recent email exchange with a magazine editor:

Her:  Thanks for submitting.  Please review the attached editorial calendar and let me know where to place your essay for consideration.  

What a normal brain hears:   Your essay caught my eye, but I’m not sure where it fits in. Here’s our editorial calendar. Keep trying.

What My Brain Hears:  Listen, loser, get your head out of your a** and read our editorial calendar. Don’t bother me again til you do.

A recent interaction with my 21-year-old niece:

Her:  I love your blog, Auntie. I read everything you write. I’ve also been enjoying reading your friend’s blog. I read more parenting blogs than any other non-mom on the planet!

What a normal brain hears:  I love you Auntie, and I like keeping in touch with you through your blog!

What my brain hears:  Your writing is ok, Auntie, but your friend’s writing – wow! She’s amazingly talented!

If only negative thinking were a marketable skill. (Then I could afford the lobotomy that’s medically indicated.)

At times, I can laugh at how determined my brain is to find something negative in everyday interactions, no matter how neutral or innocuous. Other times, I need to be talked off the ledge by my über supportive friends (and one professional therapist who, thanks to my brain’s shenanigans, can afford long vacations in La Jolla. Maybe with Stacy Keibler).

Until brain transplants are perfected, I appear to be stuck with the one I have. But I’m ready for a change. Maybe Stacy Keibler can be my new therapist?

Sisterhood Gifts

Author Unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I'll take it!

Author was unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I’ll take it!

I am blessed to have two wise and loving biological sisters and a group of beloved girlfriends whom I think of as my sisters. Together, these talented, intelligent, funny and generous women make up my posse. And while I possibly could make it through life without them, I hope I never have to.

My sisters mean the world to me – I’m a better person because of them. They laugh with me, cry with me, call me on my bullshit and cheer for me every step of the way. And they buy me great gifts. What more could a girl want? (Other than more gifts sisters …)

Speaking of gifts, I’m getting a big one today! I’m the featured blogger over at The SITS Girls, a sisterhood of more than 40,000 women connecting and learning the ins and outs of blogging and social media together.

If you’re visiting from SITS, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I started this blog just over a year ago to write about relationships – primarly those I have with my daughters, my husband and myself.

I hope you like what you see and will follow me herethere and everywhere. (You also can leave your gifts in the comments. Or send via Fed Ex.)

Those two glorious peanuts in the picture above are my daughters Rhys (5) and Ava (9). I hope they’ll stop fighting long enough to be blessed throughout their lives with the same rich, vital sister relationships I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.  Here’s to the joys of sisterhood for all of us!

Let's hope these two always remember how much they love each other ...

Let’s hope these two always remember how much they love each other.
If not, let’s hope they find someone other than me to blame!

Strangers On a Street

I was the sort of kid who spent afternoons playing with dolls on the grass, utterly focused in my own imaginary world. That’s how David snuck up on me that day.

Although our houses faced each other on Westover Street, per some unspoken rule, David and I never crossed over, each playing only in our respective front yards.

We’d gone to school together since kindergarten, but our taste in toys separated us as surely as our mothers’ dislike for each other.

“The only time that woman talks to me is to brag about her kids,” I overheard my mom tell my dad one evening. “If I have to listen one more time to how ‘exceptionally gifted’ David is, I’m going to scream!”

All I knew is that David spent hours marching his GI Joe dolls up and down the thick branches of the oak trees dotting his front yard. He never played with other kids, and he never said a word to me.

But that day was different. Even the air smelled wrong, like a mixture of damp towels and rotten eggs.

As I played on the grass, making Barbie kiss Ken again and again, David appeared, towering over me, blocking the sun.

“Wanna see something cool?” he said.

Startled, I jumped up, wiping grass off my knobby knees. David seemed wild and unexpectedly animated, his flat black hair in tangles and his mouth contorted in an unusually toothy grin.

“No, thanks,” I said, clenching my eyes shut as I bent down to pick up Barbie. I felt both excited and scared, unsure what to make of this new version of my typically somber neighbor.

“You don’t have to touch it. It won’t hurt you,” he said.

As I opened my eyes, my scream stuck in my throat, like it did in nightmares when an unknown danger approached and my voice wouldn’t work.

David’s cupped hand cradled the ugliest creature I’d ever seen. Its red protruding eyes stared into my own bulging browns.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“My dad says these 17-year cicadas are gonna be everywhere in a few days,” David said. “This is the first cicada on our block, and I found it.”

“No way,” I said, a swell of defensiveness tempering my fear. “I bet we have way more of those ugly bugs in our yard than you do.”

David shrugged his shoulders and walked away, murmuring quietly to himself.

I felt confused and angry. How dare he come over here to brag!

I spent the rest of the afternoon searching unsuccessfully for my own cicadas, hoping to best David while simultaneously praying to never see those bulging red eyes again.

Over the next several weeks, as the cicadas invaded every crevice of our neighborhood and we grew intimately familiar with these mysterious creatures, I silently watched David from my side of the street quietly marching GI Joes up and down the tree trunks in his yard. I never again saw his face light up with such pure excitement. And he never crossed over to our yard again.

Parenting Through Tragedy

I had the opportunity last week to attend a workshop at my daughters’ school about talking with kids about tragedy in the world and its portrayal in the news.

I chose not to go; convinced my husband and I were already doing a fine job protecting our daughters from the onslaught of media attention surrounding national tragedies and processing our own emotions so they didn’t come out sideways with our kids.

I was confident we had this parenting topic nailed. At least for now. And what were the chances anything would come up again soon?

I got a pedicure instead.

Photo via Good.is

Photo via Good.is

On Monday afternoon when I picked up our daughter, Rhys, from preschool, I was prepared to be a responsible, loving parent. Or so I thought. After tucking her safely into her car seat and listening attentively to the details of her day, I flipped on the radio and was horrified and riveted to hear about the Boston Marathon tragedy.

I listened for a few minutes, praying my daughter wasn’t paying attention, but too caught up in my own emotions and morbid (albeit human) fascination to care. Finally, I shut off the radio and turned to check on my daughter.

She was attentively feeding Goldfish crackers to her stuffed animal, Knufflebunny, and appeared happily ensconced in her own little world. Relieved she was blissfully unaware, we went about our errands. I swallowed the pit in my stomach and resisted my visceral need for information, knowing I’d have time later at home to devour the media coverage surrounding this tragedy.

When we picked up my older daughter, Ava, an hour later, she bounded to the car and eagerly spilled her news, “Mom, mom, did you hear about Boston? School was so scary today.”

Surprised and concerned, I encouraged her to tell me what happened, but urged her not to mention any details in front of Rhys.

“Mom, we heard about the bombings and all the people that got hurt. What happened? Will you tell me what you know?” she asked.

“NO. Not now,” I snapped. “I don’t want to talk about this in front of Rhys. Tell me what happened in school, but don’t mention the b-o-m-b-s.”

Ava’s precious little face fell at my scolding. I was peripherally aware of my hypocrisy, but more willing to try to control Ava’s need for information than my own.

Ava explained that during U.S. Studies, a boy in her 4th grade class read about what was happening in Boston on his iPad and immediately announced the details aloud to their teacher. One of Ava’s friends started screaming and crying that her mom was running the Boston Marathon. Ava and her other friends lovingly comforted the young girl as their teacher made phone calls trying to get information on the mom’s whereabouts. Thirty minutes later, the teacher was able to confirm that the young girl’s mother was safe and accounted for.

“Mom, I told [my friend] that bad things only happen to moms in Disney movies and fairy tales, not in real life,” Ava said.

Relieved that her friend’s mom was safe, I didn’t address Ava’s naive comment but simply smiled and told her I was proud of her for comforting her friend. Ava beamed. I breathed, knowing Ava and I would have more conversations about this topic later, out of Rhys’s earshot.

Moments later, Rhys asked, “Mom, what about Auntie Rita? Did the bombs hurt her like they hurt those other people?”

My intake of breath was sharp and audible. As tears filled my eyes, I realized I had forgotten all about my older sister who lives in Boston. And Rhys hadn’t missed a detail, Knufflebunny or not.

I wept openly as we dialed my sister’s number, unwilling and unable to control the emotions that had built up in me over the past few hours.

So much for protecting and influencing the flow of information in my children’s lives. So much for processing my own emotions before talking with my children.

At least I have pretty, mint green toes.

My sister is fine, unharmed. I’ve forgiven myself for my parenting mistake and have been processing my own terror and sadness along with the rest of the country. My daughters and I have had several conversations about this most recent tragedy.

Talking with my daughters about violence and those who transact it is not a parenting skill I ever intended to get good at. Unfortunately, it’s become a necessity.  And I’ll be in the front row at the next workshop.

Our Tax Preparer is AWOL

Our tax guy is missing. Vanished. Without a word or a farewell tax tip.

Hector, a fixture of our family’s April finances for the past twelve years, hasn’t returned dozens of calls, emails and texts, forcing my husband and me to scramble to find a new tax guy this year. While income tax prep was a side business for Hector, our new preparer works on income taxes only. He’s found some mistakes Hector made on past returns – all in our favor, of course, or we’d be forced to hire someone else.

I’ll admit I don’t understand everything I should about our income taxes. Although I handle our family’s day-to-day finances, I was happy to let Hector take charge and hide my head in the sand until April 16 every year.

But I was never completely comfortable with Hector and questioned his decision to leave a corporate tax job a few years back and test his luck as a casino card dealer in Reno. Who does that? I mean other than someone with mob ties. But, hey, Hector was cheap and rather flexible interpreting tax code to our benefit.

Now I’m convinced he’s been convicted of tax fraud and is busy playing “duck, duck, goose” with Lucky and Dutch in Sing Sing. And we’re headed there to share a cell with them all.

How long would I last here?  Photo via Wikimedia Commons

How long would I last here?
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

I considered hiring a private detective to find Hector, but since he’s AWOL I can’t ask him if it would be deductible.

Instead, I’m putting my years of cheap detective mystery reading to good use scouring the Internet and America’s Most Wanted for clues to Hector’s whereabouts. The next logical step is to case his house and rummage through his garbage for information (or the suitcase full of money he likely ditched as the Feds closed in on him).

It’s conceivable our tax guy entered a witness protection program after singing like a canary to the Feds and is acting in porn to support himself while he hides from his old mob cronies.

Of course, Hector could be dead, which would be sad for him, but could ultimately throw the Feds off our trail. Let’s hope they don’t find him at the bottom of a river wearing concrete boots. So tacky.

Until I know for sure, I’ll have to assume he’s busy in prison doing the warden’s taxes, like Tim Robbins’ character in the movie, Shawshank Redemption. Too bad that movie’s already been made. But ours would be even better. I can see it now – we’ll get Johnny Depp to play Hector. And George Clooney and Jennifer Lawrence would be dead ringers for my husband and me.

There could be simpler explanations for Hector’s disappearing act. He could have died a violent death at the hands of an enraged client or the husband of a secret mistress. Or been kidnapped by a south-of-the-border drug cartel and held for ransom.

If his kidnappers are reading this, please don’t bother calling. We’re broke and likely headed to Sing Sing soon.


Gift Finding Vs. Fault Finding

The other night in Florida, out to dinner with my husband’s siblings at a popular oceanfront restaurant, we encountered an uber friendly, highly inquisitive (read drunk and obnoxious) gentleman in the open-air lobby.

A Left Coast native, he was intrigued by our Midwestern lives and long-term marriages and peppered us with probing questions.

After one too many inquiries, I checked out of the conversation and focused on more important things, like what sides I would order for dinner (corn bread and baked potato) and what the odds are of being eaten by a shark if I went into the ocean with a bleeding cut on my leg (according to Google, 1 in 100,000,000).

When I resurfaced, I caught the end of this conversation:

Obnoxious Dude (pointing to my sister-in-law’s husband):  So … you were college sweethearts. Why did you end up marrying this guy?

Sister-in-Law:  He made me laugh, had a good job and a great head of hair.

Obnoxious Dude:  Sounds like you made a good choice. And what do you bring to the relationship?

Sister-in-Law:  I’m very good looking.

After laughing at my sister-in-law’s cheeky response, I started thinking about how I would answer that question – what do I bring to my relationship?

While I am also very good looking, I’m usually more willing to point out my shortcomings (bossy, short-tempered, martyr-ish) than my gifts.

Photo courtesy of http://www.miscfinds4u.com

Coincidentally, a good friend and spiritual mentor had suggested I spend some time during our vacation making a list of all the gifts I have to offer, all the wonderful qualities that make me, me.

After resisting her suggestion for days (and knowing I was still at least 30 minutes away from that corn bread), I started making a list in my head at the restaurant.

The first few were easy:  funny, loving, warm hearted.

I quickly added honest, responsible and persistent.

After those, the going got harder:  organized, compassionate and friendly led to sensible, hard working, good speller.

Blah, blah, blah – in my head, all of these attributes added up to B-O-R-I-N-G!

Where were sexy, exotic and impertinent? Why weren’t unpredictable, brazen and audacious on my list? (And where’s a good Thesaurus when you need one?!)

The next day, when I called my friend to share my insights, she relayed to me a story from the Talmud (I’m paraphrasing here) about a man who upon his death tells God, “I’m sorry I wasn’t more like Moses.” God replies, “I’m just sorry you weren’t more like you!”

Listening to this story, something shifted in me.

I’m tired of fault-finding and wishing I were different instead of owning all the glory and wonder that is me. My friend helped me realize that instead of changing anything about me, I want to own, value and even celebrate everything that is me – my strength, honesty, courage, confidence, earnestness, authenticity and big spirit-ness.

I already have all the qualities I long for and admire in other people, some only need more exercise to reach their full potential, like the ab muscles I’ve neglected over the past several years.

I’m likely to relapse into fault finding, so I need fellow travelers on this gift-finding journey. Are you with me?

What attributes of yours will you celebrate today?

If You’re Happy & You Know It …

While I’m tramping around Florida vacationing with my family, I’m re-running this post from last year detailing our family’s Spring Break exploits. Not much has changed this year … but there’s still time. Enjoy!

… Drag Your Feet:

Does anyone else find it hard to relax on vacation? It likely won’t come as a surprise to hear that I have a hard time relaxing and easing into the rhythm of unfettered free time. I say unfettered but as any parent knows, vacationing with two pint-sized people is hardly the definition of carefree bliss. Our vacations are a lot like weekend family time at home (albeit with more sunscreen): fun family activities intermingled with standard-issue parenting/care-giving tasks. On vacation, we aim to spend more time slathering the girls with sunscreen than actually playing in the sun.

Somehow our attitudes and dispositions followed us to Florida (along with enough luggage to clothe a small nation). And for the first several days of our trip, I found it hard to relax. Not that I had expectations or anything? Moi?

While I thought I signed up for the Von Trapp family vacation (picture-perfect family cruising through Florida, singing our hearts out and casting loving glances at one another circa The Sound of Music), apparently I booked the Modern Family version (overpacked, clueless, loveable family bickering, crying and vomiting across Florida). Who do I talk to at Expedia about this?

…Have Fun, Damn It:

For the first few days of our trip, my need to control morphed from accomplishment mode to memory-making mode: “Family, it is time to make some memories! Have fun. Now.”

I was scared to let go of orchestrating our “good time,” fearing we’d sit in our condo rental for a week staring at each other (our apathy interspersed with lively bickering bouts, of course). Once I let go, I experienced my favorite Florida memory so far: watching in awe arm-in-arm with Ava as a flock of pelicans dive bombed for fish and a mom and baby dolphin danced in the ocean off Naples Pier. Pure bliss.

… Take a Nap:

This trip has shown me it’s hard for me to be a fun, engaged mom for more than ten minutes at a time without a nap. Ava brought along her massive paper doll collection (it was that or the entire American Girl doll contingent). And while Southwest Airlines is generous in its baggage allowances, it did balk at giving Samantha and Kanani (Ava’s dolls) their own seats and carryon bags.

When we’ve played with the paper dolls on this trip, for some reason I’ve been assigned the dog character. After pretending to pee on everything in sight (a YouTube-quality giggle maker with my girls), my role has been to follow Ava and Rhys’ characters around and not say anything. Ever. Not exactly the Tony-award winning role my agent usually negotiates for me.

As any dog knows, when in doubt, take a nap. And nap I have. Apparently, I’m getting the hang of this relaxing thing. I hope to find some balance between constant motion and comatose before it’s time to go home.

… Avoid Your Husband:

In addition to my expectations of familial bliss on this vacation, I also imagined romance, intimacy and connection with Mike beyond our wildest dreams. Months of missed connections at home were supposed to magically transform into lustful, heartfelt interactions on the Paradise Coast. Yet, I’m finding it hard to connect with him. I’d like to blame the kids (an easy out), but really, it’s just hard for me to connect. Period. My preferred state is fight or avoid. Apparently, the saying ringing intermittently in my head “would you rather be right or be happy?” doesn’t apply to me. Right? Happy?

Mike told me the other day that he didn’t find my pissy self much fun to be with. Harrumph. And ouch. (And please. We all know my pissy self is nothing if not fun!). After first getting defensive, I asked him to tell me what he was feeling rather than what he was thinking. He owned that he was feeling lonely. Hey, me too!!! Lonely! That’s what this feeling is! A hug, a kiss, a breakthrough. We’ve got this connection thing down! Check “connect with Mike” off my vacation to do list! Seriously, while our connections are messy and imperfect, I’m grateful we know how to come back together.

… Enjoy the Moment:

I’ve not felt like writing all week, yet I’ve had a hard time letting myself off the hook. A real writer would write while on vacation, I’ve admonished myself. Shut the fuck up, I’ve answered. And when I finally let go and decided not to blog until I got back home, I woke up this morning happy, relaxed and itching to write. Go figure! And then, go home.

What do you think? Fill in the blank: If you’re happy and you know it, __________________.

Spring Break, Family Vacations, Family Memories