Monday, October 5, 2015

Some Mondays Are Worse Than Others

I was sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. My heart was pounding and my stomach was in knots.

What made this unusual is the fact that I rarely cry. It’s not something intentional. I’m just not wired to be a crier.

It started out as a typical Monday. Everyone was slow to get out of bed, but the kids and my husband made it to school and work on time. I’d packed lunches, fed the dogs, tidied the kitchen and was ready to head out for groceries.

For small lists, we shop at a nice neighborhood store near our home. But when it’s time to really stock up, I head to WalMart for a major haul. Today was that day.

I cruised through the aisles like a grocery shopping ninja. Crossing things off my list. Planning meals in my head. Tossing things into the cart with ease.

The end was in sight and I headed for the checkout lanes. I began to get frustrated with the people who were sauntering down the middle of the aisle like we were in a park.

Instead of tossing them a dirty look, I chose to dial back my Type A tendencies. I reminded myself it wasn’t slowing me down that much.

As I scoped out the lines and evaluated the size of each order, a large slovenly guy turned to me and grumbled, “The line hasn’t moved in 10 minutes!”

I looked at him with a slight grin and a we’re-all-in-this-together look and said, “Then it ought to be our turn any minute now!”

I turned and headed toward the lane I’d chosen. I began piling my groceries onto the conveyer belt, trying to catch the cashier’s eye to give her a smile.

And that’s when it began. Yelling. Swearing. Accusing. Less than four feet from where I stood, the scruffy man I’d just spoken to was getting in the face of a thirty-something woman wearing slippers and pajama pants. Not to be outdone, the woman was all up in his business, too.

Rather than standing in line, they were side by side, vying to be the first one checked out. It reminded me of kids in line for recess. Except these big kids were SHOUTING obscenities and indignities, and were on the verge of a physical fight.

Shoppers around me glanced toward the altercation, but hesitated to look too long. No one stepped in to stop the situation and it continued to escalate. No store personnel took action.

It’s important to note that I’ve never been afraid of people or situations. I don’t hide and I generally deal with tough situations head on – all 4 feet, 11 inches of me.

But today I felt something deep in the pit of my stomach. The anxiety began to build. If either of those people, in their highly agitated state, pulled a gun, then we’d all be in danger.

A rush of questions flooded my mind. If I was hurt or killed, who would pick up my kids from school? Who would contact my husband? How would they find out what happened? What was the last thing I said to each of them today?

It seemed to take forever for my groceries to be scanned and bagged – all 22 sacks of cereal, snacks and lunch supplies. My eyes continued to scan the area, I silently offered up prayers for protection and my mind began to form an exit strategy … just in case.

After what seemed like an eternity, I pushed my cart out of WalMart, while the hate-filled shouts continued and a manager finally headed that direction.

I loaded the groceries into my car quickly. Locked the door. Turned on some “Jesus music” and fought back tears. I lost the fight.

Then I got angry.

Where has our sense of decency gone? Why has our world become so violent that news anchors get shot on the air? Why are students being killed while trying to pursue an education? Why must drivers fear being shot on the highway? Why can’t I feel safe buying food for my family? WHY?

I know that some people who read this will think this is a gun rights issue.  From my perspective, it isn’t. (For what it’s worth, my husband and I don’t own any guns, but the rest of my family does.)

It’s truly not about guns. It’s not about bombs. It’s not even about mental health. It’s about basic good manners. Patience. Kindness. Empathy.

It breaks my heart that this is the world my kids are growing up in.

And while I can’t solve the world’s problems on my own, each day I’m going to ask myself, “What can I do to make this world a better place?” I hope you will, too.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Job (Dis)satisfaction

Sometimes I hate my job.

I used to love it. It started out great and was pretty close to what I expected. Of course, there were a few surprises and challenges. But with a little bit of research and extra effort, things got back on track quickly.

After several years, the “other duties as needed” portion of my job soon overtook the responsibilities I’d expected. The goals were the same, but the ways in which to accomplish them changed dramatically.

A New Paradigm
Now, it starts too early in the morning. It ends too late at night. And those are the easiest changes to deal with.

The biggest frustration is that I’m constantly having to sell my ideas – ideas and expectations that have been in place for years – and am constantly met with resistance and rudeness.

My greatest ally in the day-to-day activities spends a significant amount of time with his own responsibilities. He has his hands full with unrealistic deadlines, a huge workload and business travel. While he is my biggest cheerleader, he has a lot on his plate and I don’t want to add to his burden.

Support Becomes Rivalry
In earlier years, I had a strong support system of other women who held similar positions. We’d get together and encourage one another with the evolving challenges of our new roles. We’d share ideas of what worked – and what didn’t.

But over the years, these connections became more competitive. They were having great success and weren’t shy about sharing it – especially on social media where they mastered the art of the “humblebrag.” At times they’d point out to me – sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly – how my charges weren’t faring as well as theirs. It was beyond hurtful.

On My Own
So I began to retreat into my own cocoon and avoid those relationships. I hunkered down to make sure I was doing everything I could to generate a positive outcome.

Yet, I continued to be met with resistance. Resistance that has turned into insubordination. I sought answers with professionals who offered wonderful suggestions and tools – yet they’ve only been mildly effective.

But I’ll hang in there. Sometimes feeling as if I’ve had a small – and potentially meaningful – success. Sometimes gritting my teeth just to make it to the end of the day. Simply trying my best to put one foot in front of the other.

It’s my job. I am a mom.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

To help? Or not to help?

“We’re almost done with our research paper,” my sweet friend told me.

The pronouns she used jumped out at me. She was talking about the progress THEY were making on her son’s assignment. She and her husband are intensively involved with homework for all of their children, which has resulted in near-perfect academic records.

The child she was talking about is in the same grade as my oldest. My daughter tells me that this young man takes home every single book each night and he’s visibly shaken whenever he doesn’t get an A on any given assignment.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important to help your children establish good study habits, provide ongoing encouragement, spot-check homework and dig in when the subject matter gets tough. Please know that this isn’t a case of sour grapes on my part. Neither he nor his parents flaunt his grades and he is genuinely a respectful, kind teenager. They are our friends.

Please know that I’m not judging this family, nor am I purporting to be an expert on parenting. However, I feel as though there comes a point when kids need to know that they can do it on their own. Otherwise, the child will come to rely on your intervention in ALL things and will believe that you think he can’t handle even the most basic tasks.

Ironically, I’ve also seen the exact opposite type of parental involvement when I spent a year giving classroom presentations in impoverished schools. It broke my heart to see kids who didn’t even have the physical basics, much less emotional leadership in their homes. I weep for these students and hope they have the strength to move beyond their situation.

So what is the answer? It’s different for every family. My husband and I try to take an approach that gives our kids the tools they need to succeed without smothering them. Neither one of them is a straight A student. And that’s okay.

There are times when they need extra help and we get them a tutor. Other times, we pow wow with their teachers to see how we can better support their education. And sometimes, we even let them fail. Yes, we even let them fail.

That’s because we’ve decided that we will do ANYthing for our kids, but we won’t do EVERYthing for them.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Smile (or Two) for Your Monday

“You’re not allowed to eat popcorn in the bathtub,” was the parenting edict that led me to start this blog.

As a parent, I’m often surprised at the words that come out of my mouth. While I occasionally spew forth timely wisdom, more often than not, I’m merely repeating things I’ve already said a million times before or I’m blurting out something bizarre and unexpected.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that being a parent isn’t always magical. And it’s not always fun. But, fortunately, it can be funny.

So, as you put one foot in front of the other on this manic Monday, hopefully these funny Facebook posts will remind you that you’re not alone.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Love and Laughter

At the other end of our fully-extended dining table, my 88-year-old father-in-law was laughing. And it made my heart swell.

Seated on either side of this widower were all four of his grown kids and many grandchildren who had gathered for Christmas dinner. He eagerly ate a full meal of his favorite holiday foods, including rich pumpkin pie. A similar scene has played out many times for our family … but this year was different.

While my father-in-law’s laughter was genuine, he probably wasn’t 100% sure what he – and everyone else – was joyfully laughing about. You see, over the last year, his dementia has been rapidly increasing, his eyesight continues to fail, his hearing aid had run out of batteries and he'd broken his wrist. Because of these extensive health problems, he’s been staying in a nursing home where he can receive the best possible care. And it’s caused him great sadness.

That’s why his full-on laughter brought such joy to my heart. Honestly, I don’t think he would have laughed any harder even if he had been able to hear every single sound. The sounds that he DID hear – and those that REALLY mattered – were the familiar giggles and guffaws of his family. He knew he was surrounded by love.

Tonight, exactly one week later, this dear man’s dinner is being served on a hospital tray, with two of his kids (and one granddaughter) by his side. He’s picking at his food, trying to get his son (my hubby) to eat it instead. He’s doing fairly well, considering he’s been admitted for flu and pneumonia.

For now, we pray for comfort and quality care during his hospital stay. And we remember the peals of laughter just seven days ago, knowing that being surrounded by his family was the best gift we could ever give my father-in-law.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Facing the Facts of My Pain

“It’s frustrating, but it’s just a headache.”

“I’ve already had it for three days, so it will be over soon.”

“It’s not a big deal. There are so many people who have worse problems – like cancer or a serious illness.”

“After dealing with migraines for more than 40 years, I’m used to it.”

That’s how I’d respond when people offered sympathy for my migraines. And I truly meant every single one of those things.

I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I consider myself to be a strong (and successful) person and having this debilitating condition made me feel as though I’d be perceived as weak or a hypochondriac.

The Impact of it All
But the reality is that my migraines significantly affect my life – and even worse, the life of my family.

Nearly every day, my husband and daughter greet me in the morning by asking, “Do you have a headache today?”

My answer usually ranges from “just a small one” to “it’s brutal today.” I rarely answer, “Nope! I feel great!”

In spite of having a headache – of varying severity – nearly every day, I can typically power through the pain, fulfilling the majority of my responsibilities. At least for the first 48 hours.

But eventually the pain, nausea, inability to concentrate and sensitivity to light/sound/smell/movement drive me to my bed where I lie in silent darkness. It hurts too much to sleep and it hurts too much be awake. As strange as it sounds, even my hair hurts.I just have to wait it out.

Because of this, I rarely attend church with my family (because my migraines usually hit on the weekend), I miss out on my kids’ school activities and other events are cancelled. When I'm in the midst of a three- or four-day migraine, the house falls apart (my husband takes over as much as he has time for), I don’t cook meals, I’m not able to help my kids with their homework and many other basic functions cease.

When I finally get better, I work like a crazy person to make up for lost time – and to get the piles of laundry, dishes and paperwork back under control. It’s a vicious circle.

Accepting the Reality
After dealing with this since I was five, I accept it as part of my life. Sure, I’ve sought diagnosis and treatment, but none of the options have provided long-term relief.

Then one day, it hit me. I have a legitimate chronic illness.

That doesn’t mean I’m weak. It’s not “just a headache” that I can ignore. It’s a genuine condition that has a significant impact on my life.

According to, “Practical clinical criteria define Chronic Migraine as headache that occurs 15 or more days a month with headache lasting 4 hours or longer for at least 3 consecutive months… By this definition, people with Chronic Migraine are spending half their month living with debilitating migraines.”*

Since I easily meet that definition, I now have a new paradigm.

I have a chronic condition. And that’s okay.