Category Archives: Growing Up

The Best Halloween

This year we did Halloween right. It’s been quite a few years since I really felt/ believed/had the right to say that. It wasn’t the biggest most extravagant holiday ever. It wasn’t the fake, store bought costume that G begged for. We did have three weeks of baking/decorating/parties. But it was the best for a long time. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a kid I used it as an excuse to do the things my parents didn’t want me to do….wear fake red nails, don high heels, etc. When I got to college I was suddenly shy and didn’t really do much but use it as an excuse to drink, but when I had kids? All bets were off. And sometimes we didn’t do as well. L  remembers the year she was a kitty for Halloween. Fondly. It was the year my husband and I broke up and I was completely distracted and bought her a headband with ears and a tail and she wore a black turtleneck and black leggings. But it was the one time I caved and bought her a store bought Halloween costume-or at least parts. So the lesson there was clear, but I didn’t learn it. I didn’t realize that you want what you want and despite all my best efforts other years all this perfection-oriented kid wanted was to fit in and have store bought pieces parts. I also didn’t realize till right now that it was the last holiday that we lied to her. We all went trick or treating together and acted like everything was fine. Even thought it wasn’t. This year was good for all of us for totally other reason. My ex and I got along and when I was distracted this year and told him that we needed a costume he came through. It was a rush job, but he sewed a Jedi costume that was beautiful. (Okay I should probably stop here and explain that we didn’t actually break up then. Well, we did. We ended up, three years later, getting back together. And that’s how G calls my ex Daddy even though it would seem we broke up years before he was born. Because we did.) But back to the story….It was ASAP because G’s school told the parents last minute that the kids could wear costumes to Fall Fest TWO weeks before Halloween and only ONE week before Fall Fest. We were in a scramble. It was last minute because the principle hates Halloween, but the PTO and the teachers finally convinced her to let the kids wear them to Fall Fest. Not the actual day, but it’s a start. So I was in a mean place when I complained and yelled that he never helps, but he came through and I’m completely grateful because G got to be what he really really wanted to be and he felt great and he looked great and that’s half the battle of Halloween. The other factor that made Halloween great was  that thanks to the bitchy-Halloween-hating principle G had his costume two weeks early and got to wear it everywhere. He wore it to the hippie neighborhood preschool’s annual Halloween Fundraiser where I ate gluten and sugar and left with a headache, but it was a happy headache. And then when Halloween finally arrived he wore it downtown for the march up Mass St for the merchant sponsored Halloween Trick or Treating extravaganza. We got to see faces we hadn’t seen in months and wave at a few everyday faces. Then he wore it to Pet World’s Haunted House. Let me just say, if you’re a Lawrencian and you’ve never done it, it’s awesome! It’s a fundraiser for The Humane Society earlier in the week, but we didn’t know about it then. We went on Halloween night and it was free and not at the pet store, but at someone’s house. I don’t have great night vision so I didn’t go in. In hindsight I should have because while I’m the bitchy/strict/screeching parent most times, during any holiday I’m the fun parent. We got there before 7, which was when it was supposed to be the age appropriate time, but both G and the ex came out very quiet and looking a little white. He wore it later in the evening for neighborhood Trick or Treating.  I live in an older part of town with big old houses and towering trees. It was the perfect night for Halloween. Our first block was dead and because it’s Lawrence it’s full of old hippies who were dressed as Jimi Hendrix and were drinking wine on the porch. I’m new, but I heard once they know you they hand out beers to the adults. And if we missed a house someone would chase us down with their bowl of Twix, Kit Kat and Snickers. Good candy. Not the cheapo stuff and sometimes there were full sized bars and sometimes they made him take two or three. After two or three blocks I walked back home to put the pizzas in the oven. I almost burned the house down, but that’s a different story. I made pizza and the boys showed up and we ate and we laughed and we told G about the candy, cause he’s a yogi’s kid and doesn’t know a lot about candy and he’s only six so he hasn’t experienced a lot in the world yet. He ate a full-sized Snickers and thought it was pretty good. G crashed pretty hard that night. But, then so did I. I don’t remember our bedtime stories or the songs we sang. It’s hard work being on your best behavior. There were so many times any one of us could have been catty or decided we didn’t want to go along with the group or any number of things could have come up from our past. But it was a peaceful and fun night. And the lesson we all learned that mid-week Halloween night is that our good behavior pays off. By remembering to bite my tongue, even from the little jabs that are so often conversation in our family we had a great/meaningful/fun time. We learned that being together is better than not, even if there’s no longer a marriage that binds some of us. Together we are a family. We may be a funny looking family. I have a new love. And my ex was my first love. Those two thing are true together. I’ve had another love in between. My kids have learned to look at many sources to find guidance/role models/love. There are others that parent our kids, many that care about them and lots that love them. It’s a blessing. And that’s what made it the best Halloween ever

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It wasn’t what I expected

Last week G fell out of bed and I was scared and felt alone and was whiney.

A day later I found out that L, my teenager, has been lying. About everything. She’s not the kid I thought she was. AT ALL. And it’s taking longer to get over it then G’s tumble.

I know, you’re all shocked. A 15-year-old who lies? My kid must be the worst kid on the planet because 15-year-olds never lie and I must be one fucked-up Mother to have one who does.

And she’s been engaging in dangerous behavior. I know…repeat last paragraph.

But here’s the weird thing. I’m actually relieved. And I don’t know why. I don’t know what this feeling of relief is about. I know she feels it too. I think our reasons are different, though. I’m not sure what mine is about, but I’ll tell you what I think in a minute.

Hers, I’m pretty sure is about finally not having to hide and keep secrets and lie. I think hers is about the feeling of knowing you’re doing wrong, but once you’ve said yes once, not knowing how to get out of that cycle.  Not knowing how to say, Hey, this isn’t what I really want. Because when you’re 15 you think all your choices are permanent and you don’t know that you can say, hey I changed my mind. Or Hey, I made a mistake. I’m just learning that lesson now, so I can’t really expect her to have it down pat.

Having your parents find out about your lies gives you a great out with previous said behavior and people you were engaging in said behavior with. Honestly, though, I don’t know if that’s why she’s relieved. I think she must have been scared. I think she must have been unhappy. Having your Mom and Dad swoop in and say, That’s It! This is over!!! Can be some kind of a relief. And after we gave her a chance to come clean and after we talked for almost three hours and after she cried, finally, she slept. And I think she slept well, which is unusual for her.

I think my relief might be about knowing. Before we found out her life was a bit of a mystery to us. And I will fully accept and own my naiveté. She’s been such a good kid. She’s been an amazingly smart, friendly, well-behaved wonderful kid that we just believed everything she told us. There wasn’t any evidence to not believe her, except there was. She’s been dating an older boy for almost a year. It was naive to believe some of that wasn’t going to rub off on her. We certainly weren’t scrupulous about checking up on her. In short, we weren’t good parents. We did not serve our child well.

But there’s another part. This kid has been so perfect. So perfectly perfect. The more A’s she brought home, the more I worried about her. Cause the more she did well, the more I knew she was winding up tighter and tighter. She was so deep in her perfectionism. So, while I’m not happy about how she did it,  I am happy that she showed me she really is just a kid. She’s exploring and figuring out who she is and not as set in her control-driven mind as she used to be. And so, while I don’t want her to continue in these behaviors, I have a starting place now. Cause when she would never miss a day of school and would panic if she thought she was getting an A-, I couldn’t do a lot. But now, I can parent. Now I can help her.

My job is to guide this precious, perfect being into adulthood. It’s not my plan to teach her to be a mini-me, God forbid. And despite what she thinks I have tried to honor her individuality. I have also been clear that her decisions are her own. I know there are a lot of parents out there who think that’s bullshit. There are parents who would say, well look where that got her. A lot of parents are only interested in raising kids who adhere to their parents beliefs, values and rules.

Me, not so much. I believe she’s here to teach me as much as I’m here to teach her. She was so perfect, in the beginning, and I blemished her by being more human than she was early on. That may sound hokey to you, but I am as lucky and blessed to have her in my life as anything.  I believe my job is to raise her to be a happy, productive member of this society and however that works out is fine by me.

So, when I found out all this upsetting information about her I thought long and hard about who I wanted to be. Did I want to be a raving mad women? Did I want to model compassion and mindfulness?  Which behaviors did I want her to copy, with her friends, with her own kids, with her co-workers? Did I really want my hyper-critical voice bouncing around in her head for the next fifteen years or until she finds a great therapist?

And while she’s floored that we’re not mad and I think maybe she thinks she got off easy she will, in time, come to understand and appreciate even more the way we handled this. She certainly lost privileges, not as a punishment, but because more than any other part of my job I need to keep her safe. And she was not safe. Because she’s a kid and because she thinks she’s immortal, she thought she was safe. We all can look back at our lives and think about those teen-aged years and think, Thank God-I could be dead.

And I’ll tell you some of mine. I hitch-hiked….once. I drank. I was sexually active young. I lied to my parents and sneaked around. I cut school…although sometimes it was to catch up on homework, but nonetheless I lied to my parents, teachers and peers.

And here’s the thing. I was a good kid. I came across as a really good kid AND I WAS a good kid. Despite all that other stuff, I was also on the basketball team. I was c0-editor of my high school newspaper, the oldest student published newspaper in the country. I worked on the yearbook and the literary magazine. I didn’t have a boyfriend till senior year. I went to a great college.

So, I’m not an angel, but I wasn’t the worst kid out there. And she hasn’t been an angel, but she’s not the worst kid out there. I was just a kid doing a kid things and she’s just a kid doing kid things. And no matter how scary I think kid things are, they really are just kid things.

And when I thought about who I wanted to be as I dealt with this difficult situation and my wayward daughter that’s what I focused on. I focused on the fact that she was just a kid and she’s just doing kid things and that she’s only wayward. She’s not evil, she’s not a sinner. She’s a bit misguided. And at the end of the day being misguided and making mistakes now when she’s 15 is her job. Literally.  I believe this is her job. I don’t care about A’s. I don’t care about honor roll. It’s nice and it’s good, but this is a kid who is always going to do well. I’m more worried about her spiritual growth.

And I’m more worried about my spiritual growth. So I thought about what would serve me well. Cause I can’t be a ranting and raving parent and expect to raise balanced, happy kids. If I want to be different than my parents, different than what most parents out there do, then I have to make different choices.

And that’s what I told her. This is a kid who wants to be different than the average Kansas kid. She wants a life that’s special and different and regardless of what I think about those desires, those are her desires and I need to honor them. So I told her, if she wants to do things differently than the average Kansas kid, she has to make different choices than the average Kansas kid.

I could have yelled and shamed her. I could have told her she was bad and I was ashamed or disappointed. Not only is that not who I want to be, not the kind of parent I want to be, but it would have done some serious damage. With this kid, with this serious, smart and sensitive kid it would have pushed her farther away from me and further into herself. She’s enough in her own brain already. She’s already convinced of several untruths about herself. She doesn’t see the amazing human I see. And she certainly can’t see her future as clearly as I can.

So we’re tip-toeing through this. We’re picking our way through this mine field of hurt feelings, expectations and fear. I’m trying to figure out how to stay on my side of the street and still be a good, effective parent. She’s trying to figure out how to be vulnerable and she’s dabbling in honesty and she’s thinking hard about who she wants to be. Cause she doesn’t know and how am I supposed to have any expectations cause hell, I don’ know who I want to be yet.

So, as with so many things my sweet, first born baby and I have done, we’re figuring it out together. We didn’t know how to do it 16 years ago and we don’t know any better today. I know, even if she doesn’t, that we don’t have to know. It always works out. It may not work out the way that we thought it would, but we’re always okay.

And if that’s all I can teach her, that’s a pretty good lesson.

Sit down and take that fear to lunch.

And as for me, I decided instead of running away from the idea of a life alone, I’d better sit down and take that fear to lunch. So, I sat there and had a glass of wine, alone. No  books, no man, no friends, no armor, no faking. -Carrie Bradshaw

Sometimes we find wisdom in the strangest places, don’t we? Even the Housewives get it right some times. I have a weird habit of looking for wisdom in unlikely places. I like to watch crappy TV, like Housewives of Anywhere. And I’m a big fan of indulgent TV, like Sex and the City or The L Word. And I like to look for wisdom there. But let’s keep that between just us. Cause I do a really good job of limiting how much I watch and I would never want anyone to think I’m obsessed with such silly women. Okay, obsessed was a silly word. Okay, that was judgmental.

Okay, the honest truth is I have been known to go through spurts of non-stop Housewives watching. Obsession might be a strong word. Silly is not. Sorry, sometimes I’m judgmental.

I know it’s weird. I know it’s probably misguided. But in the midst of crazy Giudice rants and Vickie’s co-dependency & bad boyfriend choices are interesting nuggets of experiential wisdom. Or maybe it’s just a cautionary tale. And I’m all about the cautionary tale.

So, when Carrie Bradshaw decides to take her fear to lunch and sips red wine, by herself, looking fabulous at a NYC bistro, I sit up and take notice.

And just like every 43-year-old woman without a ring on her finger, I’m afraid of being alone….except, that I love it. Okay, that first part is really sexist. My 19-year-old feminist self is cringing. Women alone are fabulous and sexy and strong and wonderful…at any age.

I’m sexist and ageist. And a bad lesbian. But that’s for another post.

I’m not sure that my fear is of being alone. My fear is of not knowing. When you’re married, when you’re with your girlfriend for two years, you think you know.  You mistakenly believe you know the path you’re life is on. And maybe it’s an illusion. Maybe you don’t really know at all. But, definitely,  when you’re in it for 20 plus years, it feels like you know and it’s comforting.

Being alone is anything but.  It’s exciting sometimes. It’s fun sometimes. The other night I ate cereal for dinner.      In front of the TV.            In the dark. And even though it feels like freedom and it’s exhilarating, it’s not comfortable. I’ve never lived alone. (And to be fair I have two kids and this was a night without either, which is a little uncommon, but it’s not quite the same as alone. But I mean in -that grown-up-when-am-I-having-sex-again kinda way. )

Do I think I’ll be alone forever? No, I hope not! As much as I like it, as much as the peace is plentiful and the unstructured life is like a new drug, I still think that I’ll be back with someone again.

But, and here’s the kicker, I’m not alone.  I  am incredibly  privileged in that I live alone, but I have another. My girlfriend lives 1600 miles away, and we’re trying to figure out the long-distance thing. And I really, really don’t know if we’ll do it or not, but today it’s okay. Some days it looks like we’re done. And other days I think we’re figuring it out. But it’s okay.

It’s okay because not knowing is okay, but also because we don’t have dinner together every night and we don’t kiss  goodnight and roll over. It’s okay because of those 1600 miles. And I never thought I would think/say/believe it, but distance has been a blessing. Being alone has been a blessing.

And that’s what Carrie Bradshaw has taught me. Okay, for those of you who don’t know Carrie is the brainchild of talented writer Candace Bushnell and there are a whole lot o’Lesbians out there cringing cause Bushnell and Bradshaw are obsessed with men, but I think that’s okay. Cause whether it’s men or women we all fall into the trap of being obsessed with another sometimes.

Okay, I’m going to digress for a moment. There’s a lot of my friends that hate that there are women who care what a man thinks about them, but I think it’s human nature. Yes, Liz Gilbert is consumed with men and I know women who hate Eat, Pray, Love for that reason. But I really believe  her experience is universal. It’s not just about women who are obsessed with men. It’s about those of us who use another to define ourselves and as a woman who has been with both, it really hasn’t mattered whether it was a man or a woman I used. I thought I needed someone to tell me who I was and what I wanted and what I needed. And to be fair I didn’t choose people who particularly relished that role. So I was doing us all a disservice.

We all want to be accepted and loved. We want connection and an occasional amazing orgasm. And I don’t know why, but our fantasy isn’t really of the Zipless Fuck, it’s of the house in the Hamptons. We fantasize about Jong’s women and their independence, but I really think most of us want something more than that.

So, how do we get away from diving into it and giving up ourselves and giving our everything to someone else?

We embrace our fear of being alone, ala Carrie Bradshaw. Dare I say it?  Ala Me.

Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun, writes and talks about sitting in the pain. She teaches about the importance of not running, pushing or distracting away from what you fear.

And so I am trying really really hard to just be. Just be Melissa and recognize that it’s enough. It’s such a crazy/weird/uncomfortable feeling. But I’ve been told, and I half-heartedly believe it, that being in that painful uncomfortable place means I’m growing.

I do know that the longer I do it, the easier it gets. Is that the growth? I like to believe I’m re-grading the ruts in my brain. 

Tomorrow night I’m going to try peanut butter with a spoon. Out of the jar.

Take a Breather-the wisdom of stillness

I’m a whirlwind.  A dervish. I like movement, fast talking, fast decision making. I like things speedy and I get frustrated by things that are slow, not fast or boring.

Okay, that’s a bit of the old Melissa.

I can be a whirlwind, a dervish, a fast talking, fast acting, antsy, over-stimulated yogi. Sounds like a contradiction, huh? It’s all about progress.

I do get antsy sometimes, but I have learned how to be okay with things that are different or difficult. I am learning, I should say. I won’t lie to you and pretend that I’m perfectly content and calm while the building crumbles around me. I panic and get angry, rant and rave (more to myself these days), but when that’s over I know that walls crumbling are the way of life.

May is the month we’re learning to just be. I’m learning to accept myself, learning that I’m human and flawed and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to change. Or it can. It’s up to me and me alone.

The lesson is to learn how to lean into the discomfort. The discomfort…the hard place, is where we learn and grow. If I can be okay with the discomfort then I can learn how to accept you and me and all those around us. I can make changes that serve me and let go of that which isn’t serving me.

The hardest lesson I’ve learned is that when I get uncomfortable, it’s okay. I can use it to change or I don’t have to, but the discomfort has a purpose. So often, though, we get uncomfortable and we run. We run the other way and leave the discomfort behind. And then we miss out on the lessons. And since we don’t learn, we’re going to be that kind of uncomfortable again. We will keep getting uncomfortable until we learn how not to be.

I’ve been a runner for years. I’ve picked up and moved. I’ve ignored difficult situations. I’ve messed up and messed up and run from all my messes. It seems the universe is asking me to clean up my messes. Play time is over and if I ever want another playdate, I’m going to have to clean up after this one.

I have a life that I like. Sometimes I even love it. Okay, when I really review my life I pretty much love it all the time. I can get hyper-focused, though, on this moment and forget the big picture. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit together in ways that make me happy, but it’s kind of like the walls crumbling. That’s just life. It’s up to me to accept the way the pieces fall together. Through acceptance I can learn how to just be.

And what’s so great about learning to just be?

When I can just be I can stop feeling so agitated, antsy and bouncy. I can settle in and create all the good things I want in my life. I can help the puzzle pieces fit together in a way that is pleasing to me. I may not be able to fit them together to make the picture I thought they were going to make, but they’ll fit and it will still look nice and it will be okay.

When I just be I can feel the energy and flow of the universe. I can be present in that power/light/love that surrounds me all the time. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but it always is.

So this month the work is just to be. Be still. Be present. Be accepting. Ne happy. Be love.

Living Passionately-Share the Dream

We all have dreams. We all have secret desires. We all had that poster on our bedroom wall that we quietly kissed good night and then spent hours dreaming that the sexy celebrity decades too old for us would secretly fall in love and take us away to his fabulous mansion in Hollywood. Or at least every 10 year old girl I knew did.

And then I got older and the dreams changed, Continue reading

Turning 41

Remember back when I was so excited to turn 40? Remember how I knew it would be about coming into my own and refusing to take shit anymore? Well, maybe I didn’t say it exactly that way. Our Fab 40 group is changing our name to Fuck It, I’m 40…or something like that. Just sayin’. It wasn’t my idea, but I think I inspired it silently.

So, it’s coming upon the time for us to get together again and most of us are turning that year past 40. Or have turned. Or are contemplating it sometime later this year.

Yes, it’s 41. That year past 40. This fearless woman has to admit….41 is not sounding as fun.

Am I wrong? Continue reading

The Shift

I’m in the middle of a shift. I’ve been feeling it for a long time and FINALLY, I think I’m actually in it now. A few months ago it felt like I was a toddler learning to walk. I was on my feet, but too afraid to pick a foot up and move forward. I could even rock back and forth a little, hoping the momentum would propel me where I wanted to go. I was a bit willful, because I was pretty sure I knew where I wanted to go. I wasn’t just content to take a step, I had to make it across the room and if there were a few stairs I thought I’d tackle those too. You know how it is, thinking that learning to walk and climb stairs in the same day is not big deal.

Today, I see my folly. I was, after all, just a toddler. Today I think I’ve gained a little insight and am just in the joy of knowing how to walk.

Shifting? I’m not sure what happened, but life is humming along and I’m realizing that I’m humming with it. I’ve learned that if I just stop planning, predicting, manipulating, analyzing, and pushing I’ll get where I need to go a lot easier. I’ve learned to be still. REALLY still people. I was so still I could hear my breath, your breath and the breath of the woman across the street. I didn’t think about what I wanted, I listened for what I needed. I let the universe whisper in my ear, fold into my heart and wrap around me fuzzy and warm.

And I won’t say I did it gracefully. It sounded nice, didn’t it? But, no, in true Melissa fashion, I yelled at people, cried a lot, was exhausted, tired, achy, angry and sullen. I got so sick of myself, you, them, everyone that I really had no choice but to just shut up and be still. And on the day that I realized I had no choice my back hurt so  badly I didn’t want to move. The universe forced me to be still. And I found that I really liked it. Well, no. I was pissed I had to cancel my classes and do things completely differently for a few days. But then when I cleaned up my act and my back got better, I realized that being still had been the answer.

Be still. Stillness is such a gift.

Be still. It’s what I teach, but not often what I practice. I teach flow yoga-I’m not still in my practice and I’m rarely still in my life. I’ve had periods of stillness with great insight and thought Wow! I should do that more often. This time the lesson I learned is to be Be Still every day.

Be Still. When I am still, I am calm and centered. When I am still I’m not pushing, I can feel where I’m being pulled. Pulled is so much more powerful than pushed. When I push I am indulging my ego. I’m thinking about what would make me comfortable in this moment. My ego is always looking for comfort and isn’t really good at accepting the unknown. When I am pulled I am being guided by something larger than myself. I am being drawn to where my heart really wants to be, even if I can’t always see it. When I am pulled I am open and the unknown is a great adventure. And accepting the great unknown adventure is how I get to places that are more wonderful, more exciting, more gratifying than anything I could ever have planned.

And the shift is this wonderful place of acceptance. I can just be Melissa right here, right now. I don’t have to worry about rejection, abandonment, lonliness, exhaustion, failure or any of the other million fears I have. I’m honest, I know that there are only a few fears that come back over and over again to smack me up side the head. I can be okay with these too. I’m shifting and allowing myself to be transparent. I recognize my personal growth, but also that which  I offer to others by being transparent.

The shift finds me contemplating a wonderful, wonderful life with new and exciting challenges. The shift is what I was always craving. It was the thing that was missing, the thing that always made me feel I’d forgotten something.

I’m shifting, changing, growing, expanding and loving it all. Sometimes we don’t have to struggle. Sometimes the work is just to relax.  Today I’m releasing into all that is good and exciting, inspiring and fun. I may have to work harder tomorrow, but for today I’m just right here.